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MIT Used Lobbying, Influence To Restore Nuclear Fusion Dream

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the you-forgot-to-bury-the-head dept.

Government 135

An anonymous reader writes in with the story of how MIT's fusion energy experiment is alive and well even though its federal funding was axed. "'In the end, it is about picking a winner and a parochial effort to direct money to MIT,' said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington-based watchdog group. 'It's certainly a case of lawmakers bucking the president and putting their thumb on the scale for a particular project.' MIT enlisted the support of a wealthy Democratic donor from Concord and the help of an influential Washington think-tank co-founded by John Kerry. These efforts were backed by lobbyists, including a former congressman from Massachusetts, with connections to the right lawmakers on the right committees. The cast also included an alliance of universities, industry and national labs, all invested in the fusion dream. 'It's ground-breaking research that could lead an energy revolution,' [Senator Elizabeth] Warren said. 'This was not about politics. This was about good science.' The revival of MIT's project, whatever its merits, clearly demonstrated what the combination of old-fashioned Washington horse-trading and new-fangled power — both nuclear and political — can do."

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MIT sure has fallen far (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193317)

from the days of the Radiation Laboratory....

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

The US could have just stayed in ITER but it didn't because it thought fusion power was quixotic...

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (2)

_merlin (160982) | about 4 months ago | (#47193375)

Wut? RadLab was about microwave radiation, for shortwave radar. They didn't do nuclear physics.

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (2)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#47193509)

The US could have just stayed in ITER but it didn't because it thought fusion power was quixotic...

The US has stayed in ITER. It might leave ITER, but if it does so, it'll be because the project is so poorly managed.

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (1)

HuguesT (84078) | about 4 months ago | (#47193521)

Is the project poorly managed now? Do you have inside information?

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (5, Funny)

nojayuk (567177) | about 4 months ago | (#47193531)

ITER is not run by Americans so it is, de facto, poorly managed.

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193775)

To Americans, "poorly managed" means "unable to funnel as much money as possible to myself and my friends for as long as possible, while accomplishing nothing".

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193879)

You mispelled "Democrats" there.

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (2)

craigminah (1885846) | about 4 months ago | (#47194287)

As an American i take offense, yet the entire concept of lobbying for anything is idiotic...let politicians decide on what's best for their constituents, not who will give them the most money or kickbacks.

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194369)

> let politicians decide on what's best

Better wake up then, for you should have seen what had been decided during the past 500 years. Haven't you? Not that it was all democratic, but you know, the few pretty much always decide for the many.. don't they?

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 4 months ago | (#47194867)

The idea behind lobbying is that politicians are not experts in everything and so it makes sense for them to listen to domain experts before making their decision. The first problem is that it's hard for someone who isn't an expert to differentiate between an expert and a vested interested (or an expert providing impartial advice and one providing advice promoting self interest). The second problem is that money found its way into the system and so now it's just about vested interests, experts need not apply...

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194381)

Because Republicans never funnel money into pet projects [wikipedia.org] or friends [wikipedia.org] . You are probably one of those idiots that think Republicans are for smaller government. The only thing the parties disagree on is where to waste our money.

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194317)

heh

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194337)

I'm sorry, but having just got back from Spain and seeing the rampant political corruption there and funneling money to themselves and their friends, I believe you should pull your head out of your ass if you're going to limit that to Americans.

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193901)

I think you meant prima facie, not de facto.

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (1)

Drethon (1445051) | about 4 months ago | (#47195419)

ITER is not run by Robots so it is, de facto, poorly managed.

Correction.

Re:MIT sure has fallen far (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194725)

You don't need insider information, as there has been published information on the issue: for example [newyorker.com] . Steps are being taken and any large science project risks having such issues independent of the science and engineering behind the principles of the project. Having to manage and balance contributions from many countries does complicate and pile on the bureaucracy though.

meh (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193319)

what's happening with thorium?

Re:meh (2)

davester666 (731373) | about 4 months ago | (#47193369)

it still tastes great. I sprinkle it on everything I eat.

Re:meh (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193449)

Same as is always happening.

A lot of hype from a few desperate hopefuls who don't understand the tech. Nothing at all from anyone who realizes that it's expensive, impractical and doesn't solve any problems that can't be solved with better and cheaper options.

Re:meh (1)

jythie (914043) | about 4 months ago | (#47193721)

Though bit by bit there is some middle ground. As other technologies advance there are usually people looking back to see if new stuff might help solve some of the old technical challenges. Serious researchers have not given up on thorium, but they are much more realistic about its short/medium term viability then the hopefuls.

Re:meh (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47193951)

> much more realistic about its short/medium term viability then the hopefuls

Let's not mince words. The short/medium-term viability of thorium is exactly zero. None of the players, even the hopefuls, expect a production plant in anything less than decades.

I doubt even that, given the extremely slow pace of development to date. Yes, I'm very much aware that India and China are working on this, and I'm also away that India has been doing that for longer than China has even had nuclear power and still have nothing to show for it.

Of course thorium might actually work and be practical. The same cannot be said for any current approach to fusion, which simply will not ever be practical. This story is about more pork being dumped down a very deep hole.

http://matter2energy.wordpress.com/2012/10/26/why-fusion-will-never-happen/

Re:meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194071)

Let's not mince words. The short/medium-term viability of thorium is exactly zero. None of the players, even the hopefuls, expect a production plant in anything less than decades.

Your assumption of course is that all other factors stay the same. With the pain in the ass the fossil fuel is about to become (with respect to extraction over the next 30 years), the inability of solar and wind to provide baseline power, and the amount of crazy amount of emissions from coal thanks to China coming on board, you'll see more money dumped into alternatives.

Re:meh (3, Interesting)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47194499)

> Your assumption of course is that all other factors stay the same

Exactly the opposite, I'm taking into account the changing market at every turn.

Right now commercial PV is around 8 cents and is expected to fall in 6 to 7 cents by the end of this year.
Right now wind turbines are producing power for between 4.5 and 9 cents, and it is expected the price will collapse to the 5 cent mark over time.
These numbers include factors for intermittency, transmission upgrades, and anything else you might think of.

So, thorium. In spite of multiple decades of ongoing research, we still have no working thorium reactor. In fact, that's true in spite of the fact that the reactor just down the road from me can run on it. So if we have reactors right now that can use it, and they're not, surely there is a reason for this, right?

And the reason is that the price of building the infrastructure needed to commercialize the fuel pipeline is enormous, and at current U2 prices, utterly pointless. As I'm sure you're no doubt aware, the price of the U2 fuel cycle development was paid for by WWII, which provided a large subsidy to plants in countries with military needs. That leaves only Germany as a country that had to develop a fuel cycle *without* an interest in bombs, and look how well that turned out for them.

So basically people that actually work in the power industry, especially the nuclear power industry, see that this is not a technical problem (well, it is) but a practical one. One that is *not* getting solved any time soon. Perhaps this is simply a chicken-egg problem, and anyone that cracks one side will produce a reason to attack the other. But to date that hasn't happened, and there you have it.

Re:meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194777)

So, thorium. In spite of multiple decades of ongoing research, we still have no working thorium reactor. In fact, that's true in spite of the fact that the reactor just down the road from me can run on it. So if we have reactors right now that can use it, and they're not, surely there is a reason for this, right?

Because thorium isn't easier or cheaper to use in the US. This isn't true in other countries though. India has a much larger thorium reserve, and has been the leader in thorium use over the last decade or two, as most wester thorium based reactors were done by the 70s. They have half a dozen or so pressurized heavy water reactors using thorium partially, a small test reactor that has been running for a while, a 500 MW test reactor that is nearly finished construction and should be operational by the end of this year, and plans to have a full scale reactor commissioned by 2020 (although probably will have couple years of delay). You said you where aware of India working on this, but I guess not aware that they want it running in less than a decade, not decades.

Re:meh (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47196041)

> Because thorium isn't easier or cheaper to use in the US

Nor India, who imports all the fuel they need. And as the supply from Africa and Australia remains solid for the foreseeable future, the economic argument is unlikely to work for anyone, including India.

> You said you where aware of India working on this, but I guess not aware that they want it running in less than a decade, not decades.

I'm perfectly aware of this. I'm also aware that they said the same thing a decade ago. And the decade before that. And I'm also aware that they laid out this plan *in 1954*.

None of this inspires confidence, especially in a market where PV and wind will almost certainly (we're talking 99.9% here) cost less. You are aware, I'm sure, that India currently has plans to install more PV than nuclear, right?

Re:meh (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194263)

So it's a lot like Space Nuttery. The Thorium Nutters are a quiet bunch though.

Re:meh (2)

MachineShedFred (621896) | about 4 months ago | (#47194857)

It's still decaying. Slowly.

Article doesn't go into details about quality (5, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47193359)

The article doesn't go into details about the quality of the program. The Obama administration removed funding, and Obama certainly isn't opposed to alternative energy. According to the article:

the Obama administration, while sharing the hope that nuclear fusion will one day be harnessed as a power source, concluded that the MIT experiment was a waste of taxpayer money. It deemed MIT’s facility outdated and small, the least scientifically useful of three domestic fusion reactors. Indeed, critics of the experiment said it amounts to a $1.5 million-per-student training program that MIT wants to keep going to protect its turf and prestige.

It would be interesting to see an analysis of what the program is actually accomplishing. It's not clear, and I don't have the expertise to determine whether the program is doing anything useful.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193381)

The program is doing useful research. The question is whether it's worth the money, given that there are more capable reactors (not limited to ITER) elsewhere.

Skimming through the article the only two arguments I found where 1) dollar-for-dollar the MIT reactor produced more papers, and 2) the MIT reactor is training a population of scientists familiar with and ready to participate in fusion when it gets off the ground.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (5, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47193391)

The program is doing useful research.

What useful research is it doing? This is the topic I'm really interested in.

1) dollar-for-dollar the MIT reactor produced more papers

Eh, I'm too aware of the quality of academic papers to really care about raw numbers. Let's hear about the details of their important discoveries (or more interestingly, what research they are working on now that could give us important results in the future).

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (2)

guyniraxn (1579409) | about 4 months ago | (#47194065)

The article also mentions relatively high numbers of "articles cited by outside researchers in the last five years." Surely that is some indicator of quality.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194365)

not necessarily. I've read too many papers where they cite other papers simply to ensure that they seem to hit their minimum 30 citations it seems. I've read papers that also cite a paper simply to call out what garbage that citation is. I've also read papers that were cited simply because they were written by somebody prestigious.

A prof of mine last semester summed it up best. "And sprinkle your paper with citations to show you've spent your time at the library."

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47195015)

Not in a 'publish or perish' academic environment. Essentially that is like measuring programmer productivity by counting lines of code. At best it's a poor measure of quality, at worst it's easily gamed.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

guyniraxn (1579409) | about 4 months ago | (#47195625)

But if MIT is assumed to be so inferior due to lack of "evidence," then why are they being cited just as much as, if not more than, their superiors? Regardless of "publish or perish," MIT is getting the mentions when these outside researchers could be citing Princeton (since they're assumed to be better), no?

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47195697)

But if MIT is assumed to be so inferior due to lack of "evidence," then why are they being cited just as much as, if not more than, their superiors? Regardless of "publish or perish," MIT is getting the mentions when these outside researchers could be citing Princeton (since they're assumed to be better), no?

There are lots of potential reasons, maybe MIT knows better how to game the system, maybe MIT administrators encourage faculty to publish more often, I'm sure you can think of others.

None of that really matters though. The question that matters is, "what are they working on that is worth funding?" That is what we really care about, so why not ask it instead of skirting around the issue?

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

guyniraxn (1579409) | about 4 months ago | (#47195739)

Who is skirting? If you want to ask them, then go ask them. This is just a discussion forum, not affiliated with MIT.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47195755)

ok, so you don't know? lol not a problem.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194391)

Let's wait and see how this turns out. I mean, those people building ITER must have at least some limited kind of expertise, right? Man..

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193441)

dollar-for-dollar the MIT reactor produced more papers

The two ingredients for an academic paper are:
i) Ability to apply the techniques for research in that field (every researcher in the relevant field can); and
ii) Ability to find a slightly novel question to answer (of which there are plenty).

There is no need to have written anything particularly clever or insightful or groundbreaking or efficient or useful (to the field or to the world).

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (0)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 4 months ago | (#47193475)

The question is whether it's worth the money

To a politician, the definition of "worth the money" means how much of those taxpayer dollars will be given back to them as campaign contributions.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

jythie (914043) | about 4 months ago | (#47193723)

Or less cynically, "worth the money" can mean all sorts of things in secondary effects such as the aforementioned "student training"

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 4 months ago | (#47193411)

I'm pretty sure the Soylents will be against any energy program that isn't in tune with mother gaia though. Fusion doesn't sound like something they'd sign off on does it?

imagine if we could build big fusion plants that could power cities... would they be all over that?

I honestly don't know but given their attitude toward the nuclear programs I don't think they'd like it. I think fusion is tolerated mostly because they don't think its viable or worth worrying about right now. But if they suddenly made a viable reactor... I don't think they'd allow it.

At this point, I've grown pretty cynical about all these programs. We are at this point a house so divided that I don't think we're able to do anything anymore.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

Another, completely (812244) | about 4 months ago | (#47193591)

I think the general argument is that fusion shouldn't produce any dangerous waste at all. On that basis, I would expect the group you mention to be for it. I've heard that current test reactors produce byproducts that are dangerous, but that these are not strictly necessary for the power generation, so it might be possible to produce a reactor that emits only helium.

I guess that's part of the reason it needs further research.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (4, Insightful)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 4 months ago | (#47193609)

If that's the general argument, then it's wrong. Deuterium-Tritium fusion (the kind that all fusion efforts are currently pursuing) would produce not-insignificant amounts of neutron-irradiated waste. The waste would be just as hard to deal with as current nuclear waste is, although it would be produced in much smaller quantities. Still, though, both fission and fusion are much better than the alternatives (fossil fuels).

Aneutronic fusion would be virtually waste-free, but it's very hard and in no one's plans for the foreseeable future.

About us environmentalists, there are many different groups, and not all of us are retarded. People need electrical power, I accept that. Electrical power brings prosperity and higher standard of living, and a happier populace. I've been advocating for years for people to stop building fossil fuel plants and replace them with nuclear plants, and a lot of other environmentalists agree with me. Environmentalism isn't just Greenpeace and hippies.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (2, Informative)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 4 months ago | (#47193791)

as to the different groups of environmentalists... I know... every group has that problem.

But the issue is that to some extent we're all environmentalists. We all live in this environment and we all generally want our planet to be healthy etc.

So as a political cause or faction, its hard to claim ownership of it unless you're in the extreme radical fringe. Because pretty much everyone agrees with everything BUT that fringe. And its the fringe that causes all the controversy.

Cut them out and you get no disagreement.

The environmental movement that you and I believe in already won. It got everything it was trying to get.

But like all the lobbying and advocacy groups when they get what they want they just ask for more and more and more until people say no... and then they paint whomever is denying them anything as an enemy of EVERYTHING they've ever done.

For example, if people that have come out against reparations for American blacks are frequently labeled racists, advocates of slavery, or other things. Never mind that they were against all those things they just don't believe in reparations for some reason.

Likewise you get the same thing in the environmental movement.

You come out against anything they want and they say you want to kill the world with toxic smog and heavy metal contamination.

You come out against putting in gender quotas for female hiring and the feminists will say you want to end women's suffrage, you're a misogynist, etc.

Every group is doing this... you see it amongst the bible thumpers as well... you don't like mandated religious education in public schools? Oh suddenly we all hate Christians and want to take away people's right to freedom of religion.

Every group is doing this... And I really don't understand why anyone lets them get away with it. Its obviously completely stupid. But every day... the same shit.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1, Interesting)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 4 months ago | (#47193919)

> The environmental movement that you and I believe in already won. It got everything it was trying to get.

It had a lot of victories, no doubt about that. Lead-free gas, cleaner water, etc. But there's still a big problem and that's CO2 emissions. It's hard to argue that reducing CO2 is just childish entitlement thinking, when most everyone - environmentalist or not - agrees that it's a problem (except for a small corporate-manipulated fringe). In fact, it's probably the biggest environmental problem.

If we solve CO2 and then environmentalists also ask for a cookie, then I'd agree with you.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (2, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 4 months ago | (#47194639)

that's a half truth. People agree its a problem but they do not agree on the means of solving the problem.

The radical environmental fringe wants radical action. The majority want a slow and measured response that doesn't upset things too much.

the other side of the radical coin wants to do nothing at all.

Every time either radical fringe encounters anyone that doesn't want to everything they want right away the exact way they want they accuse them of belonging to the rival fringe when of course 95 percent of the time they're just yelling at someone in the middle.

And they've already asked for the cookie, because not only do they want the issue fixed by throwing literally trillions of dollars at the issue, they want to control that funding and regulation themselves. Which means the entire planetary economy would be in their hands.

And no... I don't think that's a reasonable request. And yes, they have effectively demanded that.

They want a global regulatory system that can order nations to comply indifferent to the wishes of their citizens. And they want that system to be in the hands of some UN body that they've seeded with their own people.

And because I'm sure you'll say it isn't trillions... I'm not just counting the money they're asking for but also the money the global economy will lose by complying... it does work out to trillions. Which isn't that hard to do really.

Consider that the US economy is something like 11-12 trillion a year all by itself. Cost the US 10 percent and you're looking at trillions in effective costs JUST in the US alone. Expand that over the whole world and its a lot more money.

And then factor that given economies have less money or are more reliant on dirty industry and so will be disproportionately harmed by the whole thing. Which means some of them won't comply or will fight compliance... and then you'll have to go through a trade war process in each situation.

Look at the problems the US has had getting sanctions on Iran for example. The EU says they'll comply. The UN says they'll comply... but the Iranians seem to be able to sell their oil anyway. So what exactly did that accomplish?

I personally think the solution is making fossil fuels uncompetitive through superior technology. I don't want to regulate them or tax them out of existence. I don't think that's practical.

What I do think will work is replacing them with something better. ACTUALLY better. The crux of our problem is energy storage. We have reasonable energy generation with solar and wind. But we have no reasonable system to store it. Batteries are not practical. At least as they currently exist. Maybe flow batteries would be okay... but I'm dubious.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

Joey Vegetables (686525) | about 4 months ago | (#47195485)

A lot of wisdom I do agree with. Regarding the storage problem - which I also agree to be the main bottleneck toward adoption of cleaner energy: why not use that energy at the point of production, to crack other hydrocarbons (biomass, corn husks, dirty coal, other carbon-rich waste), into liquid fuels using that energy, and store/transport these liquid fuels to the point where they will be used? I realize the process is not yet optimally efficient and not quite carbon-neutral, but it seems to me no worse and in many incremental ways better, than our current strategy of "burn whatever, just tax the crap out of it so we can bomb more brown people."

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (2)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47193981)

> Still, though, both fission and fusion are much better than the alternatives (fossil fuels).

Fallacy of the excluded middle. There is no way fusion will ever compete with this:

http://gallery.mailchimp.com/ce17780900c3d223633ecfa59/files/Lazard_Levelized_Cost_of_Energy_v7.0.1.pdf

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47193977)

> I'm pretty sure the Soylents will be against any energy program

So you're worried that a group of people you don't even know will scupper this effort?

> imagine if we could build big fusion plants that could power cities... would they be all over that?

Imagine if there were unicorns...

It's quite a bit more likely that someone will DNA-soup you a unicorn before you die than fusion will be in commercial use.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194417)

Man, I have not contributed pretty much anything regarding ITER to this thread full of potential. *sniff* How about more future speculations on ITER? ;}}}}}}

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 4 months ago | (#47194687)

then who cares... either way... your argument is that the tech is so far beyond our ken that we're just wasting our time with it.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193671)

> It's not clear, and I don't have the expertise to determine whether the program is doing anything useful.

Most of the major scientific achievement are not doing anything useful at their time of discovery.

What was the usefulness of general relativity in the early 20th century ? Nothing before artificial satellite (i.e. GPS).
What was the usefulness of galois theory in the 19th century ? Nothing. Now we have got major applications (coding theory...).
What was the usefulness of Fast Fourier Transform (known since ~1800) ? Nada Now everywhere.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about 4 months ago | (#47195105)

Eh, in the science world, if it's even interesting, then that's close enough to count as 'useful.' Most people understand that fundamental research is still valuable even if it doesn't yield practical results immediately; that's why we have a government science funding program. So what interesting things are they working on?

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 months ago | (#47196135)

It's not clear, and I don't have the expertise to determine whether the program is doing anything useful.

Most of the major scientific achievement are not doing anything useful at their time of discovery.

What you fail to realize though is the things you list as basic theoretical breakthroughs. Alcator C-Mod is not a basic theoretical breakthrough. Nor is it a major scientific achievement. (At least not any more.) It's not even the first tokomak, nor the latest, nor of unusual design or... or pretty much anything of note from a scientific point of view. It's a machine for performing applied research and engineering studies. And it's steadily sliding from being merely obsolescent to being completely obsolete. Ultimately MIT is keeping it running to keep the grant money flowing... which MIT then turns around and doles out to vendors and contractors all across the country. Which makes it easier to gain support come the budget crunch. Don't believe me? Look at TFA, which reproduces a graphic kindly provided by MIT detailing which Congressional districts will be affected.
 
Note to mods: "no $SCIENTIFIC_THING was useful in the beginning" is neither interesting nor insightful - it's the kind of karma whoring cargo cult [wikipedia.org] religious dogma that so often clogs scientific discussion on Slashdot.

Re:Article doesn't go into details about quality (0)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 4 months ago | (#47193859)

The Obama administrations ability to vet technology is, to say the least, questionable. So far it seems he's using funding like this to pay back major campaign donors. Not that every president doesn't do that, but frankly, I don't trust a word that comes out of the whitehouse.

R & D in America (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193365)

I read a report 2 years ago that said the R&D funding in America has fallen, while at the same time R&D fundings in Korea, Japan, Singapore and in China have gone up

The report also stated that the number of patents awarded to America has plateaued while patents awarded to other countries, especially those from East Asia, have skyrocketed

Most importantly the report stated that of the patents awarded to American companies, more and more are not directly resulted from technological advancement, but rather, based on "usage" and/or "methodology", such as the patent as described in following article -

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/05/11/scheduling_paradigm/

Re:R & D in America (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47193427)

The US allows for business method and software patents, most countries do not. That means the bar for patents in the US are set a lot lower. There are a couple of things I could have patented in the US from my inept dabblings*, and I'm just a worthless amateur. Can't patent them here in the UK though.

*Why can I not find anything on quadtree construction of voronoi diagrams? The idea is so obvious I find it hard to believe I'm the only one to think of it, but I can't find it described anywhere.

Re:R & D in America (1)

HuguesT (84078) | about 4 months ago | (#47193577)

Quadtree are an approximation technique widely used in imaging and computational geometry. Did you look on Google Scholar/Web of Science or just in patents?

A light search returned these links:

http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/3-540-47789-6_106 (sorry paywalled)

https://diglib.eg.org/EG/DL/Conf/EG2002/short/short90.pdf

I'm not sure if this is what you are looking for. In discrete geometry (construction of a Voronoi tessellation on pixel data), it is often more efficient to used an Euclidean distance function, which is linear. Indeed constructing the quadtree plus using it for the computation takes more time.

Re:R & D in America (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47193709)

No, that paper just discusses quadtrees for accelerated lookup. I had the idea of putting to use the convex property of voronoi cells (In Euclidian metric space, anyway) as a means of high-speed construction of bitmap image representations. It's very rapid when the size of the cells is large relative to the resolution of the desired bitmap image, and a lot simpler than (potentially even faster) scanline techniques.

This is what I came up with: http://birds-are-nice.me/progr... [birds-are-nice.me]

As you can tell by the writing style, I am not a professional academic and have no formal training in computer science. I just dabble. I was interested in using voronoi diagrams as approximations for inpainting animation - removing the annoying channel logo in the corner.I had some success, too: http://birds-are-nice.me/progr... [birds-are-nice.me]

Re:R & D in America (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 4 months ago | (#47193713)

The abstract of the first link looks like exactly what I came up with though, just taken to a far greater depth of mathematical analysis.

Re:R & D in America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194465)

You don't need to be a citizen or resident to file a U.S. patent; you can file from anywhere in the world. Nor do you need to have a presence here in order to prosecute your patents.

Re:R & D in America (1)

Beck_Neard (3612467) | about 4 months ago | (#47193615)

The patent system has become so screwed that 'number of patents' is not a meaningful measure of anything. Not arguing for or against your point, just pointing out that you'll have to take a more sophisticated approach if you want to meaningfully compare R&D output.

Re:R & D in America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194067)

Citation?

US R&D spending is quite high:

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

Japan is close, but it's mostly "D" spending.

Most of the rest that are even close to the US are smallish wealthy nations; that's like comparing Massachusetts R&D spending to the average of the entire EU.

Re:R & D in America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194217)

In the US, you get next to nothing by being a patent filer unless working for a firm. At best, you get some wily investor demanding you send him your source code and blueprints, then see what "his boys in China" can make use out of it.

If you have something new, you have to form a company, and start having "growth" promises. You have to have some way of showing that your company is poised to enter new markets, and start trying to make some money. Eventually you will get another firm coming in, and making you the deal you can't refuse. Sell and cash out, or they will sue your firm into the ground for some vague IP violation. The trick is how big your company can get before it gets on other businesses' radar screens.

China is a completely different beast. Government owns a say and a share in every single company on their soil. So, there is a power who has the ability to put an overriding vision across the mainland, above the mindless profit motif of other countries. Long term, who knows. However, it can mean a lot strategically.

Re:R & D in America (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47195055)

The report also stated that the number of patents awarded to America has plateaued while patents awarded to other countries, especially those from East Asia, have skyrocketed

It's not the Olympics. Each country runs their own patent office.

This post doesn't show how America has failed? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193421)

Why not? How can you justify America being unable to pursue green-energy and real R&D? Is it better to dump money into defense so the details can be stolen from other countries? How do you justify protecting oil money and the existing excesses? Is this just what politicians are bought and paid to do?

Re:This post doesn't show how America has failed? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 months ago | (#47193519)

How can you justify America being unable to pursue green-energy and real R&D?

How can I justify something that didn't happen? I can't be bothered. Maybe you ought to show us how it's done in case we ever need to justify invisible pink unicorns.

It's good when we do it, bad when others do it (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 4 months ago | (#47193587)

Seriously, how many times have I seen outrage at this sort of thing? And now, because it's "our" side (I put it in quotes because MIT and John Kerry would not give me the time of day and any relationship I would attempt to start would quickly end with security being called) suddenly it's OK. Here, try this quick vocabulary game I just made up, just fill in the blank:

_____________ (n.) The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform.

Re:It's good when we do it, bad when others do it (2, Insightful)

guises (2423402) | about 4 months ago | (#47193619)

You're being a little too vague here. What is "this sort of thing"? Lobbying? Who is "us"? Supporters of fusion research?

It's true that the Slashdot crowd trends towards opposing lobbyists (unless they're the NRA), but there's also generally pretty strong support for science funding. It's not surprising to me that comments would largely take the attitude that this is positive.

Re:It's good when we do it, bad when others do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194205)

You're being a little too vague here. What is "this sort of thing"? Lobbying? Who is "us"? Supporters of fusion research?

It's true that the Slashdot crowd trends towards opposing lobbyists (unless they're the NRA), but there's also generally pretty strong support for science funding. It's not surprising to me that comments would largely take the attitude that this is positive.

Yup, you missed the point: "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions."

Or, IOW, bribing congressmen and senators with "free speech money" is morally reprehensible unless it is intended to further goals which you personally support.

Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (5, Informative)

amaurea (2900163) | about 4 months ago | (#47193661)

It's common to hear someone say that "fusion power was 30 years away in the seventies, it's 30 years away now, and it will stay 30 years away"" or similar, and sadly, there is some truth to that (though perhaps it's 30 years now (estimated time for the DEMO full power-plant is 2033)). I think one of the reasons is that funding keeps decreasing, far below the optimistic projections of the 70s. The MIT fusion project made this graph to illustrate: https://i.imgur.com/sjH5r.jpg [imgur.com]

It's a bit like when you're downloading a file, and while the download keeps making progress, the estimated time left stays put because the download speed keeps going down. I've had that happen a few times, and it requires an exponentially falling download speed. With fusion, the situation isn't quite that bad, but when you consider the sort of funding levels people were imagining before, it isn't surprising that they thought we would have fusion power by the year 2000.

One interesting way of putting this is to say that fusion power isn't a constant amount of time away, but about 50 billion dollars of funding away. To put those 50 billion dollars in context, fossil fules have received 594 billion dollars in subsidies in the USA since 1950. So partially fusion is difficult, and partially we're not trying very hard.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 4 months ago | (#47193829)

One interesting way of putting this is to say that fusion power isn't a constant amount of time away, but about 50 billion dollars of funding away.

No matter how many women you impregnate, your first baby is still 9 months away, young grasshopper.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (1)

znrt (2424692) | about 4 months ago | (#47193997)

The MIT fusion project made this graph to illustrate: https://i.imgur.com/sjH5r.jpg [imgur.com]

wondering what those two circa 5-billion/year spikes mean in the "maximum effective effort" curve. that's about doubling the budget of "accelerated" just for 3 years hurry.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (1)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | about 4 months ago | (#47194079)

was wondering the same thing... perhaps spiking up for major experiments/phases?

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47194409)

> was wondering the same thing... perhaps spiking up for major experiments/phases?

Correct. The assumption in that graph is that applying more money means you need to do less experiments. The super-funded option has an initial series of experiments, followed by a testing phase, followed by a second round of construction and testing. The dot represents commercialization.

The problem is that all predictions about the "amount of science" left have been wrong, every time. In 1953 Spitzer predicted commercial systems by 1970 and outlined a four-step path for stellerator development, culminating in the D model that would be a production prototype. In fact, the system plateaued in the B model, and the C model was never completed in its original form because it was clear that approach would never work and they should move to tokamaks instead.

Every device has gone through a similar evolution, or much worse. There were dozens upon dozens of designs in the 1950s and 60s, not in terms of machines, but entirely different approaches to building a reactor. Most of these have proven to have plateau points well below any sort of break-even, technical or practical. Mirrors, picket fences, astrons, bumpy toruses, electron-beam ICF, zeta-pinch, theta-pinch, etc etc etc etc etc. Today we are left with two approaches, laser ICF and tokamak.

So explore the tokamak for a second. With each generation of machine the cost of staying in the game increases another order of magnitude. Today, we can only afford to build one machine. Originally ITER was going to be the testbed for a design known as DEMO. DEMO would be the testbed for a commercial reactor. The end was in sight.

Oh well, not any more, because now DEMO is the testbed for PROTO. PROTO will be the testbed for a commercial reactor. Time frame for PROTO? 2050 at the least.

I will not be alive in 2050. Many of the people reading this won't be. However, long before that, other forms of power will commercialize. We'll keep sinking money into this pit throughout though, because, as this article notes, that's the way the pork works.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194855)

You can use the same critique of Space Nuttery. All the space dreams from the '50s and '60s are also equally ludicrous, but WOW, do geeks cling to them!

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 4 months ago | (#47194105)

fossil fules have received 594 billion dollars in subsidies

Every business gets tax deductions. Those are not subsidies.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (2)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 4 months ago | (#47194591)

Really zippy? That's a subsidy. Money that would otherwise go to the US goes to the oil industry. Money they don't need since they make billions in net profits per quarter. The point in providing a subsidy/tax break is to help a industry. The oil industry hasn't needed help in a long time.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#47194973)

Don't bother arguing with these people, tomhath. Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, there are people who think the primary purpose of economic activity is to feed the State and its minions.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (1)

stenvar (2789879) | about 4 months ago | (#47194137)

That graph shows US government investment. In addition to US government funding, there is European and Asian government funding and private industry. In aggregate, we've probably spent more than $50b in today's dollars already and nothing has come out of it.

And what these research labs are building are expensive toys. If you're trying to build a commercially viable fusion reactor, spending $10b on a "working" prototype that won't even break even is not the way to do it. Government funding for this "research" is just a feeding trough for special interests who enrich themselves.

To put those 50 billion dollars in context, fossil fules have received 594 billion dollars in subsidies in the USA since 1950.

You seem to be arguing that we should ignore the subsidies we're already paying and then just merrily pay even more to another industry, and this time one that just uses the money to build expensive toys that never work. Instead of adding more government subsidies on top of existing subsidies, a better thing to do would be: (1) scrap fossil fuel subsidies, (2) deregulate the energy industry sufficiently so that people who invest in fusion privately could actually expect to reap the benefits of that investment.

Right now, if anybody were to succeed at creating a fusion reactor, between national security, radioactive waste (yup, they produce that), fuel supply, permitting, patents, etc., they'd likely never see a return.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (5, Insightful)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47194343)

> there is some truth

There's *all* truth to that. Let me put this simply; there is almost zero chance that fusion, in its current form, will *ever* be a practical power source.

Now when people read a statement like that they get their backs up about the future, and progress and science and all that. But that's not the issue. The issue is that *fusion isn't the only power source on the planet*. As long as one of these is "better" that fusion, then fusion won't happen. That's all there is to it.

So why do I state my conclusion so forcefully? Because math.

The Levelized Cost of Electricity is the key determinant in telling you whether or not a system will be built. The formula basically tells you what you have to charge for the power coming out of your system in order to break even. Anything above that number is gravy.

The formula, which you can read in depth here:
http://matter2energy.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/your-own-grid-parity-pv-system/

basically boils down to five numbers. The first is the amount of money you pay for the plant, and more specifically, the amount of interest you pay on the loans you took out to build it. The second is the cost of fuel to produce a given amount of power. The next is the peak power that the plant can produce, and next is the percentage of time that the plant actually does produce that. Finally there's the lifetime of the plant, which feed into all of the others. It's something like this:

price of your power = (all the money you put into the plant over its lifetime) / (all the power that you exported to the grid)

We measure money in dollars and cents. We measure power in kWh. This is why your power bill lists a figure in cents/kWh, and why the grid operators measure in $/MWh.

Ok, so fusion. So the price of fuel for a fusion reactor is low, about the same as a fission plant. So we can eliminate that figure for a rule-of-thumb calculation, and leaves us with the lifetime cost of the plant, the CAPEX+OPEX. Now we look at the other side, and we see two figures, the peak power and the percentage of time it runs. We can simplify by listing our CAPEX/peak power as a single number, dollars per watt.

So basically the entire cost structure comes down to the cost of the reactor, and the amount of time it spends running. The rest we can scale out linearly against other power sources.

So what do we know about these two factors?

Well in terms of percentage power, or capacity factor as we call it, fusion reactors are not competitive. Because of neutron embrittlement, they need to be shut down all the time so the reactor core liner can be removed and replaced. Newer designs place lithium-infused blocks inside the containment vessel; this means the vessel itself lasts longer but you still need to open it up all the time to get at those blocks. Generally we might expect a fusion plant to have a capacity factor on the order of a good hydro plant, on the order of 60%. For comparison, a fission plant is around 90%, a wind turbine is 30%, a solar panel is about 15%.

Ok, now the CAPEX. Any fusion reactor of practical output is going to be one of the most fantastically complicated devices ever made. They are utterly crammed with high-end materials, poisons, huge electrical and magnetic systems, high-end vacuum pumps, etc. Depending on the design, it's also flammable, and the fire will cause radioactive rain, so you still need a complete containment building. Now on top of this all, the energy density of a fusion system is *tiny*, so you need to build *enormous* reactors.

And that's where it falls apart. There is simply no way, under any reasonable development line, that the cost of building the plant, and servicing its debt, can possibly be made up by the electricity coming out. PV, one of the worst power sources in terms of cents/kWh, is currently running at about 15 to 20 cents/kWh. A fusion reactor almost certainly cannot be built that will produce power at under ten times that cost. And that's assuming it ever "works", which it doesn't.

This has nothing to do with the technology, it's inherent to the entire concept. Simply put, using a fuel that's widely described as a "very good vacuum" isn't going to produce a lot of total output.

Fusion research along the current lines is a colossal waste of money, and *everyone* knows it. It's entire existence relies entirely on fooling politicians - either by claiming that the system is needed for weapons research, or by the sorts of jingoistic arguments you see in this article.

Now someone will complain that we need to do this just in case it ever works. No, that's is absolutely wrong. The Soviets spent a huge amount of money making sure they had the best vacuum tubes in the world. How did that work out for them?

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194441)

" It's entire existence relies entirely on fooling politicians "

How about an apostrophe reactor? Limitless fuel!

"No, that's is absolutely wrong."

Ouch, my eyes!

"The Soviets spent a huge amount of money making sure they had the best vacuum tubes in the world. How did that work out for them?"

Sputnik, Gagarin, Tereshkova, first docking in LEO, Luna 16, ICBMs, etc...

Of course that's assuming all this "space research" has all these "spinoffs" and "benefits" for a society.

Odd that the nation that had most of the space "firsts" isn't this technological and social paradise, eh?

So what about General Fusion? They deftly sidestep the thermal blanket replacement issue by making it a liquid!

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194929)

I am as 'hopeful' as you about it. However, he is not the first person I have seen making these arguments. Most of the ex-nuke guys I have met say about the same thing. Fusion is not in any way cost competitive. It is sorta-kinda-possible to build. But not cost competitive due to downtime of 'must fix the reactor again'. These guys are not idiots they build nuclear reactors...

What caught my eye " MIT enlisted the support of a wealthy Democratic donor from Concord and the help of an influential Washington think-tank co-founded by John Kerry"

That explains why John Kerry suddenly became mr environment. He has money on the line. He *needs* coal to go away so his nuke loans pay out.

Mark my words there will be a dozen nuke plants being started in the next 2-3 years. 3 plants have gone from 30year being drug along 'in planning' to 'tbd in 3-4 years'. With construction crews on site building towers. That is just in the last month.

My point? Power generation is not about 'free power for everyone'. It is about money. Most of the co2 emissions thing is about money. They even built a whole tax structure around it. Follow the money and you will see the same actors over and over. You will see the 1% of the 1% playing games.

Money is also why you will not see fusion power. The uptime cost vs down time cost ratio is not there. You want these guys to build a power plant that has a negative ROI so you can satisfy your intellectual trivia. They will tell you to get bent.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47195049)

The same goes for space colonies, asteroid mining and space-based solar arrays... But how the geeks and virgin nerds cling to the fantasies!

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (2)

Joey Vegetables (686525) | about 4 months ago | (#47195613)

Your argument appears to be "we haven't solve the technical and practical challenges yet, so we never will." Progress is disappointingly slow; I'll give you that. The challenges are hard. I'll give you that too. However, given what human ingenuity has managed to accomplish just in the past 20 years, I think it is a very, very poor strategy to bet against it in the long term. Part of why we're not solving these challenges is that we're frankly not trying that hard. What we have now is still good enough for now. When that changes, when sufficiently larger players start taking fusion research seriously, I think the game will change pretty dramatically.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (4, Interesting)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#47196193)

> Your argument appears to be "we haven't solve the technical and practical challenges yet, so we never will."

What?!? I said the *exact opposite* of that.

I said that even if they get it working, there's no reason to build it.

Here, let me put this in crayon for you. Right now I can go and buy a turbine from GE, hook that up to a food dryer system from some hippy store, and use it to dry out peanut butter and feed them into the turbine. I *guarantee* you this will actually work, and produce net energy. What, you don't believe me? Fine, read this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysler_Turbine_Car

Better yet, it's carbon neutral, because the CO2 you release by burning it is sucked back into the next tree. Now of course the power coming out would cost ten times what you'd get by burning bunker oil, and bunker oil produces power at ten times the rate of a wind turbine, but *it will work*, for sure. Fusion? Meh, maybe by 2050. Maybe not. And of course, fusion will likely cost even more.

So what problem does a fusion reactor solve that a peanut turbine doesn't? None. So why isn't anyone racing to built peanut turbines? Because they cost too much. And fusion costs more than that.

And THAT is my argument.

"Now wait" you say... what if advancement X causes the price of fusion to fall? Well sure, but what if advancement Y causes the price of peanut turbines to fall? And when you look at all the research in the world, there's a lot more going into making cheaper peanuts than fusion.

I am being a bit facetious here, but not that much. I've been looking at this problem for three decades now, and it's not getting any better. Quite the opposite, fusion is getting more and more expensive. Its just not going to happen. You need to spend your energy on something that will actually happen, even if it's not as good in theory.

Re:Falling funding: Why fusion stays 30 years away (2)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 months ago | (#47196203)

Well in terms of percentage power, or capacity factor as we call it, fusion reactors are not competitive. Because of neutron embrittlement, they need to be shut down all the time so the reactor core liner can be removed and replaced.

[[Citation needed]] - "all the time" is not a mathematical statement and therefore cannot be included in your (pseudo) mathematical reasoning.
 

Depending on the design, it's also flammable, and the fire will cause radioactive rain, so you still need a complete containment building.

[[Citation needed]] - not to mention that since the system is not under significant pressure, the containment building (if actually needed) will be far simpler and far cheaper than that needed by a nuclear power plant.
 

And that's where it falls apart.

No, where it falls apart is right at the beginning where you start handwaving and blowing smoke about equations... but then substitute FUD for actual numbers.

Remember the Swartz! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193811)

Never forget!

There's a reason I won't hire out of MIT. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47193961)

The stunning, complete lack of realistic expectations in the minds of their graduates... Their solution to even the most trivial problems is a multi-million dollar research project into some pie-in-the-sky technology that only exists in sci-fi movies. They have no grasp of practical problem solving.

Re:There's a reason I won't hire out of MIT. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194325)

MIT is a joke. The most practical thing a MIT graduate has done recently is open a self-hyping online electronics hobby store that vastly overcharges for simple parts.

Re:There's a reason I won't hire out of MIT. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194553)

Oh you mean Sparkfun? I know right? Anything they sell can be had even from Digikey at half the price, and anyone who can draw with a crayon can design the boards they sell and have them made for a lot less than what they sell theirs for...

Re:There's a reason I won't hire out of MIT. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194715)

No, I mean Adafruit. Even her master's thesis sounds like a sham. If that's what EE has become, I'll be a plumber, thank you very much.

Re:There's a reason I won't hire out of MIT. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194463)

I think that this was the almost identical kind of reasoning which attempted to disapprove the invention of the car. :> The people at MIT certainly can accomplish a few great things. On the long run, you shall find out if it was for the benefit of mankind.

Re:There's a reason I won't hire out of MIT. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194541)

They had sci-fi movies about cars for 60 years and no one actually built a car during those 60 years?

Re:There's a reason I won't hire out of MIT. (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 4 months ago | (#47194607)

"They have no grasp of practical problem solving."

What U.S. corporation does.

Whot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47194987)

Now a lobbying group is unhappy. What would they have done, instead? Use "influence" and "lobbying" perhaps? Pot, meet kettle. We're all niggers here so settle the fuck down.

For all the group's name is worth, it could be a republican-funded anti-science organization serving the coal, natural gas, and oil industries; and the uranium industry to a lesser degree.

Some things are too important to save money on. (1)

johnwerneken (74428) | about 4 months ago | (#47195915)

Some things are too important to save money on. Fusion is one; space expansion is the other.

The Manhattan Project was an expensive undertaking, even for a rich country fully mobilized for war. Competing methods were given unlimited funds and two different methods were pursued to completion.

Re:Some things are too important to save money on. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47196237)

Some things are too important to save money on. Fusion is one; space expansion is the other.

One day, while I was still at school, we went on a trip to see an experimental fusion reactor being built nearby. It's now about thirty years later, and the scientists and engineers who showed us around are probably on the verge of retiring after spending their entire lives not building a working fusion reactor.

Most of the money that's been thrown at fusion was a total waste. When we do finally get a usable fusion reactor, it will probably be developed in a few years by a company that actually needs one, rather than by a government that has a lot of spare cash to burn without caring about results.

Not All Lobbying is Bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#47196267)

Lobbying is part of getting legislation passed. Sometimes it has broad support from the public and sometimes the public just doesn't care (such as copyright law - the average person just doesn't care).

The answer to bad lobbying isn't to ban lobbying. It's to create an informed public that participates in the democratic process.

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