Saturday, October 9, 2010

With 48 slain in 6 months, Americans on a deadly pace in Mexico | World | - Houston Chronicle

With 48 slain in 6 months, Americans on a deadly pace in Mexico World - Houston Chronicle

Is funding Bussard's Fusion Device like buying a lottery ticket?

This analogy may bother the community of people who support Dr.
Bussard's work.  However, what I read on this subject indicates
that the work is by no means assured of success.  Bussard believed
in it.  He said that it will work.  Yet the evidence is said
to be stronger for the Tokomak design than the evidence for the
polywell design.  Looking at it on the basis of evidence, it is
understandable why policy makers want to fund ITER, and may not
be quite as eager to fund the Polywell device.  If it came down
to competition for funds, it would seem that ITER wins.

But there's another way of looking at it.  The polywell design
is nearer to prototype.  The ITER project can't build its prototype for
many years.  The choice is to spend a smaller amount of money now for
smaller probability of success vs. a larger sum for a higher
probability of success many years from now.  That is the choice.
It's like buying a lottery ticket.

If polywell's prototype gets funded now, it may actually be cheaper
over the long run.  If it is successful, then ITER is probably not
necessary.  The funds for ITER can be diverted in developing Polywell.
The risk is that this smaller investment may not work out.  But the
reward could be a big winner.  In terms of funding, the risk is a
couple hundred million compared to billions potentially spent on the
ITER project.  If you lose, you lose a couple hundred million.  If you
win, you save billions.  That's the risk v. reward angle.

The above analysis is only in terms of funding.  Once you consider the
benefits of having the technology now as opposed to many years in the
future, the reward could be even greater.  It has the value of time in
its favor.

Why the hurry?  Why not wait and let the science work out the answer?
Why the "get rich quick" scheme?  But one thing you cannot ignore is
the value of time.  Everyone gets just so much time and that is it.
And having the benefit now is more gratifying than waiting for who
knows how long.  Besides, there is no guarantee of what the future may
bring.  Perhaps you will need it sooner rather than later.  You just
can't ignore the time value of it.  Time is limited just as money is.

If the government raised gasoline taxes by 1 cent a gallon and dedicated
the money to Bussard's lottery ticket, would it be worth it?  I think
I would be happy to pay a penny a gallon just to see if the thing could
work.  Sometimes you do win the lottery.

Running the numbers a bit.  For 10,000 miles and assuming 25 mpg, the cost
would be 4 bucks.  Multiply that by a couple hundred million drivers and
you've got a big enough stash to play.  If it didn't work, it would still be
fun to try anyway, don't you think?  A lottery ticket doesn't break the

Compare that to paying for cap and trade.  The benefits to cap and trade
are hard to quantify.  But the costs would be more than a penny a gallon.
If polywell works, it can accomplish everything that cap and trade claims
to do plus a whole lot more.  It could reduce the cost of living because
energy would be cheaper.  And that would amount to a lot more than the
penny a gallon cost.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Louisiana Purchase

From our history books, we learned how the USA effectively doubled its size through
the Louisiana Purchase.  From the vantage point of history, the Louisiana Purchase
was a great bargain.  Out of it arose a great nation that now leads the world.

Was the Louisiana Purchase a one time type event that can never happen again?
What if you could get a great bargain like this even today?  What if you can obtain
a means by which the people could benefit from it in ways that are hard to even

Louisiana in those times was the frontier.  The new frontier these days is space.
It is being explored today as the Old West was being explored shortly after Columbus.
The Columbus analogy is perhaps not fitting.  Columbus didn't know America was here,
he was just looking for a shortcut to China.  But we knew that space has been there
all along.  Our problem is accessing it.

Perhaps we need the modern day equivalent of the invention of the steam engine.
The steam engine enabled the Old West to be settled and developed.  If all they
had was horses, the Old West might not have been settled at all.  Or if it did get
settled, it would have taken much longer to do it.

What will be the modern day equivalent of the invention of the steam engine?  What
will enable us to settle the new frontier of space?  There are many ideas out there
and I have written about a few of them on this blog.  The future is a tricky thing
though, hard to tell what might happen.

The future is a topic of great interest to me.  Over the years, I have attempted
to predict the future of events- from the outcome of football games, elections, and
the financial markets.  Naturally, I would love to get it right for once!  If only.
I know a little about computers.  Yet I didn't see the potential of investing in
Microsoft when it went public in 1986.  Just a small investment in Microsoft then
could have made me a millionaire.   Alas, I made no such investment and I am not
a millionaire.  The same sad story repeats itself with the invention of the world
wide web.

You get older- maybe if you are lucky- you get a little wiser.  Maybe my ability
to see the future is too weak.  But if I am right about the Bussard Fusion device,
then it will lead to the next big thing.  I'd like to be on the ground floor of
that development, wouldn't you?

It wouldn't take much to get this idea off the ground so to speak.  In the era of
trillion dollar deficits, the cost of building a prototype fusion device is trivial.
I don't have the figure available, but it is around 200 million dollars.  For an
individual or someone in the private sector, this is a lot of money.  But to the
government, it is close to nothing.

So if the government refuses funding for this work, what's next?  Will the private
sector step up to the plate?  Or will it take a lot of individuals willing to join
together in a common purpose to bring this into reality?  Either way, if you willing
to do just a little to help out, it could make the difference.

I guess the old 64k dollar question is this: what will it take?


Value, an interesting word. According to Webster's it can be a noun: a fair return or equivalent in goods, services, or money for something exchanged. Or, it can be a verb: to rate or scale in usefulness, importance or general worth. I was thinking about the midterm elections coming up. In a couple of weeks America will determine whether or not we have received fair value for our vote for "change" two years ago. A lot of promises were made. A lot of new laws passed. A lot of money spent. If we use the verb variety of value to determine whether or not the "change" was a success, the 10% unemployment rate, the continuing wars in the Middle East, and the ever increasing slide in VALUE of the dollar would tell us caveat emptor was ignored in 2008. The grass roots movement known as The Tea Party is a manifestation of caveat emptor i.e , they think they were screwed by the "change".These people are madder than the people that forced the "change" in 2008. It will be interesting, to a political junkie like me, how long they stay mad and how successful they are in changing the "CHANGE"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Robert Bussard's IEC Fusion device

I first learned about this work several years ago, perhaps it was
in 2006.  He made a presentation on YouTube, which I can't link
to here, but I remember it well.

Two things I remembered: 1) it was hard to follow and to understand,
and 2) I was struck at his confidence level in his work.  He said quite
flatly that it will work.  Bussard is dead now, this was his last work.
He wanted to share it with the world before his death.  Little was
published about it because it had to fly under the radar so as to
avoid interference from those who would stop the program.  It was
a Navy program and it was under a publishing embargo for 11 years.
Obviously, Bussard was no crackpot, he was the real deal.

The reason I am writing about Bussard's device is in connection to
the book that I have been writing about: "Mining the Sky".  It turns out
that this device can be used in a space ship, and it would be one
heck of a space ship.  Such a ship could take off like a plane and
go into orbit.  It could fly to Mars and back.  By way of powerful and
efficient fusion power, this thing could go anywhere in the solar system.
That would include trips to the asteroid belt where the mineral wealth
there is sufficient enough to make everyone on Earth a billionaire many
times over.

Bussard lamented the mindset that is commonplace in the Western
world these days.  His biggest problem was not the physics of the
device, but in getting funds to do his work.  The funds required is
small- almost ridiculously small- in terms of the potential benefits
that could be obtained from a succesful device of this type.  But no
one seems to care.  There is plenty of money in this country to try
out this device, but too many people don't understand it, nor are
interested enough in it to try to understand.

Human emotions are easy enough to understand.  Greed, power,
and self preservation.  First of all, greed.  You could motivate someone
by appealing to their desire for great wealth.  Certainly a device that
would allow one to tap the mineral wealth of the asteroids is certainly
enough to motivate somebody out there.  Secondly, power.  A device
like this has military value.  This should be so obvious that it needs
little explanation.  The shorthand for this is that whoever dominates
the high ground will win the battles.  Finally, self preservation.  A device
like this may save the human race.  It could make the deserts bloom,
so that there should be no shortage of water nor food anywhere.  It
can defend the skies from rogue asteroids that have the potential to
end civilization and even life itself on this planet.  The only excuse to
not to develop this device is to be dead.  If you're alive, then you should
be vitally interested in it.

But what if it doesn't work?  That doesn't stop governments from
spending huge sums of money on other projects that have no more
merit than this one.  Actually, it doesn't stop governments from
spending huge amounts of money on projects with less merit
than this one.  That is what Bussard was worried about.  Too many
people have too many reasons to oppose this project for reasons
that have nothing to do with its merit or lack of same.  It is part
of the inertia that is threatening all of us.  It may take something
to wake up the policy makers.  Hopefully this won't take too long.

pB11 fusion reaction yields 3 alpha particles (Helium nucleii)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mining the Sky, Part III

Well, I bought the book and have read it.  It is a bit out of date
having been written in 1996.  Since that date, water has been
detected on the moon.  This makes mining the moon's resources
all that more attractive.

The book doesn't give a specific enough plan that could be followed.
But it does give you enough to go on and allow your own imagination
to fill in the blanks.

The space program as it stands now is very uncertain about its
mission, in my opinion.  The only thing that is certain is that there
will be no really big projects in the future, like another Apollo project.
In order to sell a program, it will have to be self supporting.  Future
missions in the spirit of how we are doing things now should focus
on the preliminaries toward a large scale mission in the future.  This
large scale mission could set up a permanent presence on the moon
in which its resources could be used to support itself.

From there, the moon could be used to expand the concept to the
exploitation of space for economic gain.  But that may sound too
capitalistic for some people these days.

10/8/2010 Update: Here's a post about the conference in which the author of the
book "Mining the Sky" will participate. It is on Al Fin's Check it out.