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(NPR)   Congress is dragging in scientists to explain why they took Obama's $5 billion dollars 3 years ago and then failed to discover fusion   (npr.org) divider line 92
    More: Stupid, nuclear fusions, congresses, obama, radioactive waste, National Nuclear Security Administration, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, nuclear fissions, nuclear reactions  
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4166 clicks; posted to Geek » on 29 Nov 2012 at 10:32 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-11-29 09:32:05 AM
On one hand, it's sad that Congress doesn't know how science works.

On the other hand, we've got a rather obvious daily reminder that the theory is based on sound principles so it's starting to get ridiculous that no one's come up with a way to do it yet.
 
2012-11-29 09:53:33 AM
You can't rush scientific discovery. There's no time table for it.
 
2012-11-29 09:53:51 AM
Tell congress it'll make a legendary weapon of immense capabilities that will forever shift the global balance of power and i'm sure they'll stumble over themselves to funnel more money than is needed to it
 
2012-11-29 10:09:46 AM

doglover: On one hand, it's sad that Congress doesn't know how science works.

On the other hand, we've got a rather obvious daily reminder that the theory is based on sound principles so it's starting to get ridiculous that no one's come up with a way to do it yet.


IIRC the NIF hit energy break even on at least one occasion, they just haven't figured out how to do it in a stable sustained reaction yet.


one thing pretty much all the fusion reactor designs have a problem with is induced radioactivity and brittlness in their casins over time due to neutron bombardment.
 
2012-11-29 10:35:26 AM
I definitely think fusion research is important, but with five billion dollars you could probably build a full-size liquid fluoride thorium reactor.
 
2012-11-29 10:36:37 AM
This is in Italy where they jail scientists who fail at their jobs. Right? 

This is not about Italy?
 
2012-11-29 10:38:00 AM
Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

lh5.googleusercontent.com
 
2012-11-29 10:43:20 AM

DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:


Mine's bigger.
upload.wikimedia.org
 
2012-11-29 10:44:32 AM
You'd think five billion double dollars would go further
 
2012-11-29 10:47:34 AM
Maybe the scientists should drag congress in to explain to us all why they fail at literally everything they're supposed to do.
 
2012-11-29 10:48:43 AM

doglover: On one hand, it's sad that Congress doesn't know how science works.

On the other hand, we've got a rather obvious daily reminder that the theory is based on sound principles so it's starting to get ridiculous that no one's come up with a way to do it yet.


Unless the principles aren't as sound as we currently believe, but that would be an equally valuable thing to find out. Maybe even more valuable.
 
2012-11-29 10:48:54 AM

DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:


Isn't that fission?
 
2012-11-29 10:50:44 AM

Summoner101: DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

Isn't that fission?


Fusion reaction triggered by a fission detonation. All of the power without the clean.
 
2012-11-29 10:52:29 AM

Summoner101: DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

Isn't that fission?


Nuclear weapons, the 'hydrogen bomb', work by fusing hydrogen (by using a fission primer, as I understand it). Atomic weapons are fission weapons.
 
2012-11-29 10:52:52 AM
Well, Congress, I didn't give my vote so that you could decide the fate of a program that you couldn't possibly comprehend. Suggestion: Sit down and STFU.

/This is the problem with electing aged lawyers to make all decision
//I'm sure 50% of congress would have difficulty navigating FARK.
 
2012-11-29 10:53:02 AM

Snarfangel: I definitely think fusion research is important, but with five billion dollars you could probably build a full-size liquid fluoride thorium reactor.


I just want one of these:

www.reallifecomics.com
 
2012-11-29 10:56:22 AM
This really isn't a scandal. Taxpayer-funded researchers have to justify their existence. When you're getting a government research grant, you give updates to your funding agency, and I'm not aware of any exceptions. This means saying what you've done with the money and what results you have (or haven't) seen. If you've got squat, you need to explain why you've got squat, how you plan to turn that around, and why you should get another heap of money to keep the research going.

Sorry, no matter how noble or promising the venture may be, at some point somebody has to say, "It's probably not worth dumping more money down this drain. Not at this time or with this group of scientists." Not saying that's the case here, but they shouldn't be excluded from the process just because we really want fusion reactors.
 
2012-11-29 10:56:54 AM

xanadian: You can't rush scientific discovery. There's no time table for it.


That sort of depends why the project isn't working.

If they've set it up, and the energy delivery/temperature requirements have been met, but the outcome hasn't been achieved due to some other factor they haven't worked out yet, then that's just science, deal with it.

If they haven't achieved the energy delivery/temperature requirements with their equipment, then the failure is on the scientists, not in the "you just can't rush it" category.

TFA isn't entirely clear on what the point of failure is, so maybe this is a matter of congress misunderstanding science and maybe it isn't. Every scientific experiment has a layer of engineering under it and that can be pretty quantitatively judged. "We can't get the conditions right" is a statement that could go either way.

//Basically I'm objecting to the idea that science makes you magically immune to being judged. Probably because I do it for a living and I'm judged by the equivalent of supervisors and funders all the time.
 
2012-11-29 11:00:25 AM

Summoner101: DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

Isn't that fission?


Early bombs = Fission.
modern hydrogen bomb = Fusion.

I am curious why they had a deadline in the first place. That implies fixed conditions, known problems (and their solutions), regular deliverables, etc. etc. But this is basic research, not construction a mall or designing an airplane or something.

When you are asking a specific question, with known/understood techniques and a planned process to get there you can timetable it up as much as you want.

When your goal is "Discover sustainable fusion" you have a helluva lot more than one question to answer, loads of unknowns, and every piece of equipment/material is expensive as hell.

I would say to congress: "Basic Research is expensive and unpredictable. You want the big payoff, it takes work and money, now STFU and let me get back to work, you just cost us a full days salary for everyone involved and travel costs to get me here and ask your stupid farking questions which you COULD have asked over the phone. Not only did the direct cost of my salary for this waste of time get deducted, but my schedule was screwed up to take a full day to get over here. Instead of prepping/crunching numbers/whatever I had to answer questions from people who are academically less qualified than our janitors.
 
2012-11-29 11:02:13 AM
maybe they need to turn all the LASERS to 11....
 
2012-11-29 11:03:11 AM

Nurglitch: Summoner101: DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

Isn't that fission?

Nuclear weapons, the 'hydrogen bomb', work by fusing hydrogen (by using a fission primer, as I understand it). Atomic weapons are fission weapons.


I believe "thermonuclear" is the term for fusion weapons -- "nuclear" is the general term for both. I forget if "atomic" just refers to fission weapons or is also a catch-all term.
 
2012-11-29 11:04:48 AM
How do they sustain the fusion? I'm fuzzy on that. You get the deuterium to fuse, it's burns and then what? Is like a pellet stove where you keep feeding it pellets of deuterium?
 
2012-11-29 11:06:33 AM

dragonchild: DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

Mine's bigger.
[upload.wikimedia.org image 290x277]


It's not the size it's how you use it!
 
2012-11-29 11:06:59 AM

dragonchild: DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

Mine's bigger.
[upload.wikimedia.org image 290x277]


Dyson sphere! Dyson sphere!
 
2012-11-29 11:07:17 AM

Jim_Callahan: xanadian: You can't rush scientific discovery. There's no time table for it.

That sort of depends why the project isn't working.

If they've set it up, and the energy delivery/temperature requirements have been met, but the outcome hasn't been achieved due to some other factor they haven't worked out yet, then that's just science, deal with it.

If they haven't achieved the energy delivery/temperature requirements with their equipment, then the failure is on the scientists, not in the "you just can't rush it" category.

TFA isn't entirely clear on what the point of failure is, so maybe this is a matter of congress misunderstanding science and maybe it isn't. Every scientific experiment has a layer of engineering under it and that can be pretty quantitatively judged. "We can't get the conditions right" is a statement that could go either way.

//Basically I'm objecting to the idea that science makes you magically immune to being judged. Probably because I do it for a living and I'm judged by the equivalent of supervisors and funders all the time.


You have good points, but I am heavily biased towards the scientists for two reasons:
1) My experience in the scientific field with oversight (specifically congressional oversight) is not positive. Stupider questions than you can possibly imagine and then completely missing the point/objective of the answer.
2) 5 years is NOT that long for building the NIF AND conducting research
3) Reports can be done with an email/phonecall/conference call/whatever. Having someone dragged all the way to DC is farking stupid given how advanced communication technology is today.
 
2012-11-29 11:10:49 AM

DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

[lh5.googleusercontent.com image 512x384]


dragonchild: DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

Mine's bigger.
[upload.wikimedia.org image 290x277]


LOL and LOL'er.

It's because, adjusted for inflation, the Manhattan project cost more and they refuse to discover something better for lower wages.
Also, congress should imprison them in the same wing as the Italian earthquake guy.
What I would say next would have the Secret Service (SS) on my ass, so I shall refrain from further comment.
 
2012-11-29 11:13:02 AM
And while we're on that:

www.moviecus.com

WHERE'S MY FLYING CAR?
 
2012-11-29 11:19:04 AM

Jim_Callahan: xanadian: You can't rush scientific discovery. There's no time table for it.

That sort of depends why the project isn't working.

If they've set it up, and the energy delivery/temperature requirements have been met, but the outcome hasn't been achieved due to some other factor they haven't worked out yet, then that's just science, deal with it.

If they haven't achieved the energy delivery/temperature requirements with their equipment, then the failure is on the scientists, not in the "you just can't rush it" category.

TFA isn't entirely clear on what the point of failure is, so maybe this is a matter of congress misunderstanding science and maybe it isn't. Every scientific experiment has a layer of engineering under it and that can be pretty quantitatively judged. "We can't get the conditions right" is a statement that could go either way.

//Basically I'm objecting to the idea that science makes you magically immune to being judged. Probably because I do it for a living and I'm judged by the equivalent of supervisors and funders all the time.


You are dead on.
 
2012-11-29 11:21:13 AM
As an American, I'm fine with my tax dollars being spent on this, and am fine with it being doubled even.

When do I get to talk to congress about the things I pay for, for them, that I'm not okay with?
 
2012-11-29 11:22:50 AM

xanadian: You can't rush scientific discovery. There's no time table for it.


But it's at least ok to have someone spend a few hours giving a report that the money wasn't spent on hookers and blow, right? Even if the conclusion is that they have $5B worth of ways to *not* create fusion, you still kinda want to know that.
 
2012-11-29 11:26:12 AM
And yet both the F22 and F35 program is 100s of billions over cost and no one is being dragged into congress.
 
2012-11-29 11:29:29 AM

An-Unnecessarily-Long-Name: And yet both the F22 and F35 program is 100s of billions over cost and no one is being dragged into congress.


That is because a lot of the origins for the cost overruns are from congress itself. Can't shine a spotlight on a contractor or military liason when all they will say is "well, we did it because the requirement was to do it in three states, with these particular suppliers, it would have been a helluva lot simpler to go with the original plan..."
 
2012-11-29 11:31:22 AM

Wicked Chinchilla: I am curious why they had a deadline in the first place. That implies fixed conditions, known problems (and their solutions), regular deliverables, etc. etc. But this is basic research, not construction a mall or designing an airplane or something.


The October thing wasn't so much a deadline as a prediction made by the team back in January. The NIF itself has been split between ignition research and materials research, so the last five years haven't been all spent trying to achieve ignition. Construction obviously, plus time spent doing materials research. The National Ignition Campaign has been going on for a bit no, but it officially ended in September. Now there is debate about whether to renew focus on ignition, switch primarily to materials research, etc.
 
2012-11-29 11:33:24 AM

jonny_q: But it's at least ok to have someone spend a few hours giving a report that the money wasn't spent on hookers and blow, right? Even if the conclusion is that they have $5B worth of ways to *not* create fusion, you still kinda want to know that.


There are scads of official book length reports filed all of the time. There is one that was just done this fall. Congressional testimony is, and always has been, a side-show.
 
2012-11-29 11:33:25 AM

Jim_Callahan: xanadian: You can't rush scientific discovery. There's no time table for it.

That sort of depends why the project isn't working.

If they've set it up, and the energy delivery/temperature requirements have been met, but the outcome hasn't been achieved due to some other factor they haven't worked out yet, then that's just science, deal with it.

If they haven't achieved the energy delivery/temperature requirements with their equipment, then the failure is on the scientists, not in the "you just can't rush it" category.

TFA isn't entirely clear on what the point of failure is, so maybe this is a matter of congress misunderstanding science and maybe it isn't. Every scientific experiment has a layer of engineering under it and that can be pretty quantitatively judged. "We can't get the conditions right" is a statement that could go either way.

//Basically I'm objecting to the idea that science makes you magically immune to being judged. Probably because I do it for a living and I'm judged by the equivalent of supervisors and funders all the time.


I think this post is reasonable, and I am curious as to which website I have stumbled upon.
 
2012-11-29 11:35:18 AM

jonny_q: xanadian: You can't rush scientific discovery. There's no time table for it.

But it's at least ok to have someone spend a few hours giving a report that the money wasn't spent on hookers and blow, right? Even if the conclusion is that they have $5B worth of ways to *not* create fusion, you still kinda want to know that.


This isn't an audit. The government audits everyone who gets funding, and it's a pretty involved process. You need to account for every last penny, and it all has to be spent in a way explicitly allowed in the grant.

This is different; it's a public shaming. Congressmen who haven't mastered 9th grade math are being placed in front of TV cameras, not to go over the books, but to be spanked. Fingers will be wagged. Noses will be looked down. The capital building even has special chairs (I'm dead serious here) that are a little lower than the others, the better to judge them from up on high.

So a few lab directors will spend an afternoon in the stocks, and after the politicians score their points, everyone will go back to what they were doing.
 
2012-11-29 11:36:32 AM

jonny_q: Even if the conclusion is that they have $5B worth of ways to *not* create fusion, you still kinda want to know that.


I'll sell you twice as many ways to not create fusion for only $$500M.

(We are still dealing in Double Dollars, right?)
 
2012-11-29 11:42:51 AM

hstein3: This really isn't a scandal. Taxpayer-funded researchers have to justify their existence. When you're getting a government research grant, you give updates to your funding agency, and I'm not aware of any exceptions. This means saying what you've done with the money and what results you have (or haven't) seen. If you've got squat, you need to explain why you've got squat, how you plan to turn that around, and why you should get another heap of money to keep the research going.

Sorry, no matter how noble or promising the venture may be, at some point somebody has to say, "It's probably not worth dumping more money down this drain. Not at this time or with this group of scientists." Not saying that's the case here, but they shouldn't be excluded from the process just because we really want fusion reactors.


There is a difference between giving updates to the scientifically literate funding agency and the illiterate congress. Congress is known for publicly shaming research it didn't understand or purposely misrepresented. Golden Fleece Award
 
2012-11-29 11:52:11 AM
Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave! With a bunch of scraps!
 
2012-11-29 11:52:27 AM

DoBeDoBeDo: dragonchild: DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

Mine's bigger.
[upload.wikimedia.org image 290x277]

It's not the size it's how you use it!


If I remember correctly, we're still struggling with the technological problem to reliably get more than even just 15% of the energy out of sunlight from solar (photovoltaic) panels.

It doesn't matter how big it is if you don't know how to use it...
 
2012-11-29 12:01:47 PM
They want the money, they can handle an hour or two on the hot seat.
 
2012-11-29 12:06:40 PM
No risk no reward.

/I'd sooner want to speak to the builders of those stealth planes.
/the first one was experimental, but by the fifth you should have the process sorted out.
 
2012-11-29 12:07:37 PM

Johnsnownw: Well, Congress, I didn't give my vote so that you could decide the fate of a program that you couldn't possibly comprehend. Suggestion: Sit down and STFU.

/This is the problem with electing aged lawyers to make all decision
//I'm sure 50% of congress would have difficulty navigating FARK.


Then what did you do with your vote?
 
2012-11-29 12:09:19 PM

entropic_existence: There are scads of official book length reports filed all of the time. There is one that was just done this fall. Congressional testimony is, and always has been, a side-show.


And therein lies problem with this. Whether it's related to cost overruns, a scandal, criminal activity or whatever, it's frequently grandstanding by those with authority.
 
2012-11-29 12:09:30 PM

hstein3: This really isn't a scandal. Taxpayer-funded researchers have to justify their existence. When you're getting a government research grant, you give updates to your funding agency, and I'm not aware of any exceptions. This means saying what you've done with the money and what results you have (or haven't) seen. If you've got squat, you need to explain why you've got squat, how you plan to turn that around, and why you should get another heap of money to keep the research going.

Sorry, no matter how noble or promising the venture may be, at some point somebody has to say, "It's probably not worth dumping more money down this drain. Not at this time or with this group of scientists." Not saying that's the case here, but they shouldn't be excluded from the process just because we really want fusion reactors.


Why did this not apply to star wars?
Oh yeah. Reagan.
 
2012-11-29 12:12:07 PM

PsyLord: Snarfangel: I definitely think fusion research is important, but with five billion dollars you could probably build a full-size liquid fluoride thorium reactor.

I just want one of these:

[www.reallifecomics.com image 253x365]


5 JIGABUCKS?

bp1.blogger.com
 
2012-11-29 12:18:46 PM

TopoGigo: (We are still dealing in Double Dollars, right?)


You're from Jersey? If that's how you want to roll.

www.state.nj.us
 
2012-11-29 12:19:29 PM
The date in TFA is from the "our theory is sound, the design was adequate, look it worked" timetable. Fact is the theory was insufficient.

The most recent external review of the NIF by people who are not politicians can be found here.

Apparently the experiment itself is working wonderfully.

"All observers note that the functionality ofthe laser; the quality of the diagnostics, optics and targets; and the operations by the NIC and NIF teams have all been outstanding."

But like all good work, there is always the chance that it will not bear the predicted gains.

"One key issue that has been noted is that state-of-the-art ICF simulation codes have predicted that present designs would ignite or at least show substantial levels of alpha heating and the failure to make better progress towards ignition reveals a significant lack of fidelity in the computer simulations."

Nonetheless, good work has secondary benefits.

"While the NIC team would also pursue further experiments on hot spot formation and low mode asymmetries as well as some more focused and less integrated experiments, particularly to study mix, the general sense of the reviewers was that the proposed program would continue the present semi-empirical approach to achieving ignition, without adequately resolving the gaps between codes and experiments. Given the time available in this campaign and the high quality of experimental operations, this approach can produce useful results that may provide some advance in fusion parameters and will give useful data to test models."

The external review said to keep going. Since the facility has already been constructed, we would be fools to disagree.

"While no reviewer thought ignition likely before December 31, 2012, some thought the intermediate goal of measurable alpha heating (increasing the neutron yield) might be achieved within that time and several expressed optimism about achieving ignition at NIF within a few years."
 
2012-11-29 12:22:34 PM

Frank N Stein: They want the money, they can handle an hour or two on the hot seat.


Not saying your wrong, they can handle it. But how is meeting face to face better than book-length reports submitted at regular intervals with precise information? Especially when the scientist has to spend your funding to fly to congress, and talk to people with no hope of understanding the complexities of his activities so will not be satisfied by any real answer.

Its a waste of time and money. Audits are the true hot seat, and you have to go through those regularly. As someone else said: that's a cent-level read through of everything you have done/spent. These guys just want to biatch at the nerd because they don't have their shiny new super glow stick yet.
 
2012-11-29 12:26:01 PM

qorkfiend: dragonchild: DoBeDoBeDo: Wait I'm pretty sure we've discovered fusion:

Mine's bigger.
[upload.wikimedia.org image 290x277]

Dyson sphere! Dyson sphere!


I have the biggest ball of them all!

(VYCanisMajoris.jpg)
 
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