1. Subscribersonhouse
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    13 Aug '15 11:56
    http://phys.org/news/2015-08-fusion-power-closer-reality.html

    Breakthrough in high power magnets makes the new design possible.
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    13 Aug '15 15:392 edits
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    http://phys.org/news/2015-08-fusion-power-closer-reality.html

    Breakthrough in high power magnets makes the new design possible.
    Fantastic! This sounds VERY hopeful!
    At last, for the first time ever, it really seems to me the old tiresome joke of “Practical nuclear fusion power plants are just 30 years away—and always will be. “ no longer applies and we could really be looking at practical cost-effective fusion power SOON! ( within ~10 years ) . I have been through this link with a fine tooth comb and I don't see a single tiny thing in this link that would put a dampener on that fantastically joyful outlook.
    We could economically within a few years go easily 100% renewable with the help of this! (well, close enough ' renewable'! It would take us an extremely long time for us to run out of deuterium for this! ) And, judging purely from what I read here it the link, I would guess it would eventually work out much cheaper than fossil fuels! So good for the economy and environment!

    http://phys.org/news/2015-08-fusion-power-closer-reality.html

    “...The achievable fusion power increases according to the fourth power of the increase in the magnetic field. Thus, doubling the field would produce a 16-fold increase in the fusion power.


    While the new superconductors do not produce quite a doubling of the field strength, they are strong enough to increase fusion power by about a factor of 10 compared to standard superconducting technology, Sorbom says. This dramatic improvement leads to a cascade of potential improvements in reactor design.



    In addition, as with ITER, the new superconducting magnets would enable the reactor to operate in a sustained way, producing a steady power output, unlike today's experimental reactors that can only operate for a few seconds at a time without overheating of copper coils.

    Another key advantage is that most of the solid blanket materials used to surround the fusion chamber in such reactors are replaced by a liquid material that can easily be circulated and replaced, eliminating the need for costly replacement procedures as the materials degrade over time.


    Right now, as designed, the reactor should be capable of producing about three times as much electricity as is needed to keep it running, but the design could probably be improved to increase that proportion to about five or six times, Sorbom says. So far, no fusion reactor has produced as much energy as it consumes, so this kind of net energy production would be a major breakthrough in fusion technology, the team says.

    The MIT research, Kingham says, "shows that going to higher magnetic fields, an MIT speciality, can lead to much smaller (and hence cheaper and quicker-to-build) devices." The work is of "exceptional quality," he says; "the next step … would be to refine the design and work out more of the engineering details, but already the work should be catching the attention of policy makers, philanthropists and private investors."
    ...


    Fantastic all round!

    but where it says;

    “The world's most powerful planned fusion reactor, a huge device called ITER that is under construction in France, is expected to cost around $40 billion. Sorbom and the MIT team estimate that the new design, about half the diameter of ITER (which was designed before the new superconductors became available), would produce about the same power at a fraction of the cost and in a shorter construction time....”

    -tt makes me think that, unless I am missing something here, they should now definitely completely halt construction of that “ ITER” and divert all funds from that to building the one with this vastly improved design made with this new superconductor? I think so.
  3. Subscribersonhouse
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    13 Aug '15 16:37
    Originally posted by humy
    Fantastic! This sounds VERY hopeful!
    At last, for the first time ever, it really seems to me the old tiresome joke of “Practical nuclear fusion power plants are just 30 years away—and always will be. “ no longer applies and we could really be looking at practical cost-effective fusion power SOON! ( within ~10 years ) . I have been through this link with a fin ...[text shortened]... building the one with this vastly improved design made with this new superconductor? I think so.
    I was thinking the exact same thing. I wonder if they will actually do that? Or will political exigency and inertia just keep on the same old program? It seems to me only the basic groundwork has been done, I don't think any real construction has been done yet so it seems they COULD change course if they WOULD.
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    13 Aug '15 19:191 edit
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    I was thinking the exact same thing. I wonder if they will actually do that? Or will political exigency and inertia just keep on the same old program? It seems to me only the basic groundwork has been done, I don't think any real construction has been done yet so it seems they COULD change course if they WOULD.
    I have just inserted my own comment about that at the bottom of that link along with some other comments I made in response to some other comments made by some other posters there that I think are pretty idiotic.
  5. Cape Town
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    14 Aug '15 06:30
    Originally posted by humy
    -tt makes me think that, unless I am missing something here, they should now definitely completely halt construction of that “ ITER” and divert all funds from that to building the one with this vastly improved design made with this new superconductor? I think so.
    Although not an identical situation, I often think that large expensive projects whose main cost is computing power should simply be put on hold for a few years as the costs are guaranteed to drop dramatically. I feel that way about SETI@home for example. Only time sensitive projects are worth pursuing such as those that will save lives if completed sooner.

    Of course there are also cases where the costs drop because of the big expensive projects that lead the way.
  6. Subscribersonhouse
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    14 Aug '15 10:411 edit
    Originally posted by humy
    I have just inserted my own comment about that at the bottom of that link along with some other comments I made in response to some other comments made by some other posters there that I think are pretty idiotic.
    I gather you are Shavera?
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    14 Aug '15 13:17
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    Although not an identical situation, I often think that large expensive projects whose main cost is computing power should simply be put on hold for a few years as the costs are guaranteed to drop dramatically. I feel that way about SETI@home for example. Only time sensitive projects are worth pursuing such as those that will save lives if completed soone ...[text shortened]... also cases where the costs drop [b]because of the big expensive projects that lead the way.[/b]
    The problem is that technological progress in any given area does not happen automatically.

    Progress only happens when it is intentionally driven forwards.

    This means that waiting for technology to come along to fix your problem us typically doomed
    to failure because technology wont come along unless it is made to come along.

    This is why both battery technology and electric cars were, until a few years ago, barely more
    sophisticated than they were 100 years ago. In the intervening years, nobody was doing research
    on them.

    Now it's true that computing power has it's own drivers and will keep advancing regardless [unless
    and until it hits some kind of wall preventing further progress]. However, if you want to have people
    who are experts in the thing you want to pursue, and if you want other relevant technologies and
    designs to be both understood and up-to-date then you need to have an active goal driven project
    to push those designs and technologies forwards in the mean time.

    Otherwise your experts disappear onto other projects, and the technologies and designs stagnate
    and get forgotten.

    When NASA wanted to produce a new spaceship to replace the Space Shuttle they considered a
    design based on the Saturn V rocket [but brought up to date] which you think would have been easy
    because they had already built the Saturn V. But those who had all the technical knowledge had died,
    retired, gone elsewhere. And many of the technical drawings and designs had been destroyed to save
    space. [pre-digital data storage issues]

    Which meant that to re-build a Saturn V rocket they would basically have to restart from scratch and
    design and build it again. re-learning everything as they went.

    All because they stagnated for decades and didn't keep pushing the technology and design and didn't
    keep hold of the designers and engineers who understood and built the thing.


    Saying "lets wait for 'x-technology' to come along before we do anything" pretty much guarantees
    that not only will no progress be made until then... But when you get to that magic point you will
    find that your abilities in this area have gone backwards.


    There are some rare cases where you really cannot make any progress on a technology without
    something else being designed first.

    But they are the rare exceptions to the rule.
  8. Subscribersonhouse
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    14 Aug '15 14:161 edit
    Originally posted by googlefudge
    The problem is that technological progress in any given area does not happen automatically.

    Progress only happens when it is intentionally driven forwards.

    This means that waiting for technology to come along to fix your problem us typically doomed
    to failure because technology wont come along unless it is made to come along.

    This is why both ...[text shortened]... without
    something else being designed first.

    But they are the rare exceptions to the rule.
    That bit with the Saturn V was purely political. I was a tech on Apollo, Apollo tracking and timing, maybe you remember me talking about that. Anyway, Nixon thought 1) it was a democrat project so republicans refuse to fund something from across the isle, and 2) we proved our point, the main point being to beat the Soviets to the moon. So Nixon thought of the whole Apollo program as a publicity stunt so, Americans on the moon, enough, goodbye Apollo, throw out all those 'usesless' Saturn V drawings and so forth. After I was laid off at Goddard, I drifted west and found myself at Goldstone space tracking center in the California desert east of Los Angeles.

    http://www.gdscc.nasa.gov/?page_id=40

    I was offered a job there tracking space objects. The thing that was disconcerting was my equipment, the tracking and timing hardware took up maybe 8 square meters or so and it had not even been that long since my time at Goddard Space Flight Center so when I had my job interview at Goldstone, I noticed all my previous hardware was gone and new tiles put down on the floor. I kind of grieved for the loss of that hardware I had come to know pretty dam well๐Ÿ™‚

    It turned out, because I found out, taking my GF with for the interview, she had agoraphobia, fear of open spaces, which I found out about when we showed up at Goldstone. Me, being an idiot, said, ok, don't worry, I won't accept the offer, and we went back to Venice Beach. Talk about dumb......
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    14 Aug '15 15:00
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    That bit with the Saturn V was purely political. I was a tech on Apollo, Apollo tracking and timing, maybe you remember me talking about that. Anyway, Nixon thought 1) it was a democrat project so republicans refuse to fund something from across the isle, and 2) we proved our point, the main point being to beat the Soviets to the moon. So Nixon thought of t ...[text shortened]... , don't worry, I won't accept the offer, and we went back to Venice Beach. Talk about dumb......
    I did have you in mind when I was writing my post as I am well aware you worked on Apollo. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am not sure however that it was 'entirely' a political issue. Although politics is a major and ongoing
    problem for NASA. Which is why I currently have more hope for Space-X.

    While we could be significantly further ahead than we currently are, I don't think that we had the
    ability in the 1960~70's to 'affordably' put big enough space craft into space to be able to go to
    the Moon or beyond. The Apollo program was an incredible achievement, right on the edge of
    'do-ability' at the time. Which meant it was very expensive, and dangerous.

    Nowadays, we have the ability, and are developing 'the same' to put large enough and sophisticated
    enough space craft into orbit that we could go to the Moon and/or Mars/Asteroids/etc with manned
    missions and do it in a sustainably affordable way.

    I also think we could already be doing it if we hadn't abandoned the idea completely and just pootled
    around in LEO for decades without any design work going into going beyond LEO.

    Mars direct [for example] was doable decades ago.

    I noticed all my previous hardware was gone and new tiles put down on the floor. I kind of grieved for the loss of that hardware I had come to know pretty dam well


    This is one of those areas that I struggle to understand and believe why those at the time didn't think
    to save this stuff for posterity. I mean seriously, they couldn't find suitable museums for this stuff at the
    very least??
  10. Cape Town
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    15 Aug '15 09:53
    Originally posted by googlefudge
    The problem is that technological progress in any given area does not happen automatically.

    Progress only happens when it is intentionally driven forwards.
    The speed of computing is being driven mostly by business. Any science project whose costs depend on computing speed and whose urgency is not critical could save enormous costs by simply waiting.

    Some projects like the human genome project could have benefited by waiting, but at the same time were largely responsible for the drop in costs as the project itself developed the technology. In addition the benefits for human health of finishing sooner made that project worth it.

    With regards to fusion reactors, the development of better magnets was not an outcome of fusion reactor projects. But yet again, successful development of fusion power at a price point below coal, would be so beneficial for mankind that it is probably worth pursuing now rather than later.
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    15 Aug '15 13:04
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    The speed of computing is being driven mostly by business. Any science project whose costs depend on computing speed and whose urgency is not critical could save enormous costs by simply waiting.

    Some projects like the human genome project could have benefited by waiting, but at the same time were largely responsible for the drop in costs as the projec ...[text shortened]... al, would be so beneficial for mankind that it is probably worth pursuing now rather than later.
    I think you just made my argument for me.

    The human genome project came in under-budget and early because of advances in computing power
    as the project progressed. But if we had waited for the technology to advance first we would not have
    got that important result as soon as we did.

    This applies to everything we do.
  12. Cape Town
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    15 Aug '15 13:25
    Originally posted by googlefudge
    But if we had waited for the technology to advance first we would not have
    got that important result as soon as we did.

    This applies to everything we do.
    So the question for any project is whether or not the extra cost of doing it now rather than later justifies the faster results.
    In my opinion for Seti@home it is not justified, for Rosetta@home, it is. But I may be underestimating the benefits of finding alien transmissions.
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    15 Aug '15 13:46
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    So the question for any project is whether or not the extra cost of doing it now rather than later justifies the faster results.
    In my opinion for Seti@home it is not justified, for Rosetta@home, it is. But I may be underestimating the benefits of finding alien transmissions.
    There is a space technology company that was working on anti-vibration technology for
    a space telescope. They spent several years and several millions researching and developing
    the technology before the satellite got cancelled.

    Cut to a few years later and they get in contact with [I believe German] wind turbine manufacturers
    who needed to make their turbines quieter because of new noise pollution regulations that had been
    passed.

    With a few quick adaptations, their anti-vibration technology could be quickly and cheaply adapted
    to the turbines and make the much quieter.

    Discoveries and ancillary technologies get used for many things other than their original intended
    purpose. And we cannot always [or frankly ever] predict all the potential uses and benefits of research
    and technological development.

    Perhaps in trying to figure out how to detect alien transmissions someone will develop a new communications
    algorithm that gets us to within 98% of the Shannon Limit, or maybe they come up with a revolutionary
    compression algorithm... Or maybe 100 other things I haven't thought of...

    We should most definitely spend a significant portion of our resources doing R&D on things we can see
    practical benefits for in the immediate future. However we should also spend significant resources doing
    research on blue sky projects or complex endeavours like breaking the land speed record or putting a
    human on Mars because while those things may not have immediate obvious practical benefits. It's all
    the technologies and ideas people have that change the world that we never intended that we would otherwise
    miss out on.

    Penicillin being the poster-child for this.


    Unless we reach some sort of limit, computing technology will ALWAYS be cheaper tomorrow.

    Think about all the advances and knowledge we would miss if we always waited for tomorrow to try.
  14. Subscribersonhouse
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    15 Aug '15 15:42
    Originally posted by googlefudge
    I did have you in mind when I was writing my post as I am well aware you worked on Apollo. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I am not sure however that it was 'entirely' a political issue. Although politics is a major and ongoing
    problem for NASA. Which is why I currently have more hope for Space-X.

    While we could be significantly further ahead than we currently are, I don't t ...[text shortened]... rity. I mean seriously, they couldn't find suitable museums for this stuff at the
    very least??
    I googled Apollo equipment museum and the only thing I got was the module. MY equipment probably went to the garbage dump. Some of the stuff though, was off the shelf items like the two atomic clocks made by HP and the third backup, an advanced temperature stabilized quartz crystal clock, not near as accurate as the atomic clocks but good enough for short term outages. The tracking modules were one of a kind and probably hit the dumpster. I wish I had been there at Goldstone when the dumped my stuff out the door๐Ÿ™‚
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