Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

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Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

Postby Paul Schatzkin » Mon Oct 26, 2015 6:37 pm

So, here I am finally.

Some of you might recognize the name. I wrote a book about Philo T Farnsworth – The Boy Who Invented Television – which remains more than a decade after its publication the only account of Farnsworth's life that even scratches the surface of his fusion explorations.

I am also the titular founder of Fusor.net, which I started in its earliest form back in 1998. After posting my Farnsworth bio material to a website I started in the mid-90s (songs.com), I posted some info about his fusion work and asked the web-world if there was anybody out there who shared my fascination with the subject. Richard Hull was the first person to reply, and the rest, as they say, is history...

I have been intrigued with the subject of fusion since I was first introduced to the subject on a hillside in Santa Cruz, California in the late summer of 1973.

I had first heard of Farnsworth a few months earlier, in a rather obscure publication dedicated to the art and craft of "guerrilla video" called "Radical Software." In the spring of '73, Radical Software – previously based in NYC – published an edition called from San Francisco called "Video City" – so named because it was in San Francisco that Farnsworth first introduced electronic video to the world in 1927.

There is more about my introduction to Farnsworth and a link to "The Electromagnetic Spectrum Blues" – an elegy to Farnsworth written by a family friend the day after he died (in March, 1971) and television generally ignored the news here:

http://www.farnovision.com/chronicles/t ... weeps.html

That was my introduction to Farnsworth, and as potent as that was, hearing about his fusion work seems to have had an even more lasting impact on my life. As I recently related in a post to Fusor.net:

In September of '73 (after graduating from college on the east coast and moving out to LA to seek my fortune in the TeeVee biz), I went up the coast to Santa Cruz, where I met a friend of the Farnsworth family. This person described the promise of fusion – clean, unlimited energy from the same engine that drives the sun and stars – and the riddle that comes with it: how do you bottle a star? What sort of container can man devise to hold a star on earth, where the heat of star doesn't destroy the bottle or the bottle doesn't extinguish the star.

I was hooked on the riddle. But even more so when I my acquaintance in Santa Cruz conveyed the apocryphal story he had heard from Farnsworth’s eldest son - Philo T. Farnsworth III - about the day his father put aside his fusion work. The story goes something like this:
Imagine a young boy watching from the doorway of his father’s laboratory while the father operates an amazing machine – a ‘star in a jar.’ The young boy watches as his father puts the machine through its paces, spinning off an eery, other-worldly light as the small synthetic star burns brightly. And then he watches as his father – satisfied that the device worked as intended – dismantled it in such a way that it would never work again, and placed the piece that made it work on a high shelf where nobody would ever find it.


Two years later, I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Philo T. Farnsworth III. Over the course of the following decade we became good and trusting friends and shared many amazing moments together. After I’d know him a while, I finally told him about that story, and asked him if there was any truth to it.

“That’s a pretty good story,” Philo said, “if a bit fantastic. But I’ll tell you this much: the patents that my father filed… are incomplete.”

In other words, something was removed from the public disclosures – the patents – that make all the difference in how the device that Farnsworth built works or doesn’t work.

And here we are, 40 years later, trying to figure out what was left out of those patents; if the work that Farnsworth pioneered is indeed a viable path to the "fusion powered future" or just more vaporware, a smaller but no less impotent version of the tokamaks, stellarators, and laser-powered Shivas.

It is interesting to me that fusion is in the news of late. As type, the cover story this week's issue of TIME magazine is all about "the quest for fusion" - the coverage prompted by the recent forays into the field by Silicon Valley-type, tech-titan-fueled startups. Help yourself to a pirated PDF copy here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/atme427rq9yii ... n.pdf?dl=0

There is a certain sense of deja vu to all this recent coverage. It seems like, one way or another, we have all been here before. And the story in TIME makes the point, alluding to the frequently used rubric that "fusion is 20 years in the future... and always will be."

Which note of cynicism makes perfect sense when you consider the hundreds of millions and maybe hundreds of billions (ITER) that have been spent building gigantic dinosaur machines that attempt to wrestle the fusion beast with brute and massive force.

Except that... I believe - for no particularly rational reason other than the little spark that fired when I heard that story in 1973 - that Philo Farnsworth demonstrated that fusion is NOT a "beast" that has to wrestled to the dirt by monstrous machines. I believe Farnsworth illuminated the path to a process that ignites the "star in a jar" by elegantly marshaling the inherent properties of the quantum forces involved.

For whatever reason, Farnsworth's work has never been pursued – except in the past 15 years by the legion of "Fusioneers" cultivated here and at Fusor.net. We cannot say categorically whether this approach is viable or not (and I say this as testimony from one of the authoritative voices that worked with Farnsworth in the 1960s). But it sure is odd how much money goes into building those behemoths and how little goes into a "desktop" device like the fusor. I guess that is just a demonstration of a monolithic industrial-age mentality that dominates the agenda.

I'm not enough of a scientist to say whether the Farnsworth approach is truly viable. I am primarily an artist and a story teller. But I know just enough to be inspired by the spirited exchanges I see at this and other sites as individuals far more knowledgeable than myself circle the story and try to find the way in.

Finally, I feel very strongly about one thing that I think Doug Coulter and I have in common: the determination that whatever the secret of fusion turns out to be, if indeed the riddle has an answer (and why shouldn't it?), then that answer must NOT become the exclusive property of any single enterprise. The miracle must be harnessed, but the knowledge must be set free.

By the same token, it is entirely likely that the answer to the riddle will only be found through the free-flowing exchange of information, data, and experience fostered via sites like this and Fusor.net. Doug has readily testified that he learned much from Fusor.net, and has (at least tried to) offer his own experience to that database (his frustration at which explains the existence of this parallel site).

And so I am here, and continue to host Fusor.net at my own expense, because of this conviction: Fusion is NOT "20 years in the future and always will be." It is 50 years in the past.

We missed it.

And now we have to find it again.
Paul Schatzkin, aka "The Perfesser" – Founder and Host of Fusor.net
Author of The Boy Who Invented Television - http://farnovision.com/book.html
"Fusion is not 20 years in the future; it's 50 years in the past and we missed it."
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Re: Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

Postby Doug Coulter » Tue Oct 27, 2015 1:43 pm

We're honored to have you, Paul! Welcome to the board. Your forums do yeoman work in introducing beginners to the field - much more than we could do here, and I'm glad it's there.
Like you, I think this is too important to allow some single big business (or government) to monopolize it. The energy business is just too important to humanity as a whole for those shenanigans. It's not like the existing companies won't make plenty of money from it regardless - someone has to build all the units, deal with customers, support it all, and so on, which is generally remunerative. I'm sure not going into the production business myself!

Like you, I believe (and have some data to back this up) that "the answer" is not brute force, but subtlety. In fact, my recent breakthrough could have been achieved long ago - and by accident, under the right conditions, which may have prevailed, but not been properly monitored (after all, things like data acquisition were done by hand writing meter readings, and oscilloscopes were rare and expensive, for just a couple examples).

Here we are hot on the trail of something big, soon to be revealed once we ensure we can keep it open source (due to nasty changes in the patent laws). How big we are not yet sure, but we've duped some of Farnsworth's "anomalies"; except we can replicate them.

For those others reading these forums - we have a place for general Q&A or whatever BS'ing one wants to do - the water cooler. Most of the rest is "experts writing the book" on what they actually do, and the tricks rarely found in books on how people actually do this "intellectually trivial but actually difficult" stuff. I tried, but failed, to pigeon-hole science into categories, and am now convinced it's not possible without so much "width of the tree" it wouldn't help anyway - on the other hand, overspecialization is that bane of discovery as well...a conundrum indeed. We'll do our best - and take suggestions about any new categories people might want for their reports.

FWIW, the water cooler idea was one from Paul's forums that we implemented here - Carl Willis suggested we should have a spot where people can talk trash that gets emptied automatically like the office trash can. They thought of it - but we did it.
If something actually cool shows up there - our moderators will either make it sticky - or put it where it seems to belong. Else, any thread there more than 10 days without a post just goes "poof" - which saves us all trouble, and keeps this board high up in search rankings.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

Postby johnf » Fri Oct 30, 2015 11:42 pm

Welcome Paul
I see you did take my advice at HEAS
Doug you can shoot me for that!!
Two years ago I did stay with Doug for a week and I know he was on to something
ZIP
I'm not talking further
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Re: Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

Postby Doug Coulter » Sat Oct 31, 2015 1:04 pm

Hah, John, you know I'd never shoot you. Even my lawyers, much less my guns, won't reach that far if I wanted to - but I don't.
Should I post that video of you shooting on my range? (John did quite well) I think it's better to be friends, anyway. I'll always have a soft spot for certain Kiwis.
Thanks for the ZIP - you won't have to hold it much longer, I hope.
And thanks for helping me make and interpret the measurements that lead to what looks like a successful path to go down!
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

Postby johnf » Sun Nov 01, 2015 1:49 am

Doug
post away
I hope that I have helped

John
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Re: Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

Postby Doug Coulter » Mon Nov 02, 2015 2:49 pm

Ok...Here's John shooting a weird gun on my range that reminds one of the old saying about clarinets - "an ill wind nobody blows good". And it's his first go - no practice.
I don't think anyone would want to get into a gunfight with this man...or for that matter, a physics argument. John HAS had a bit of practice at that, after all...

That last jug is hard to hit for some reason - I had the same experience (and I've practiced).
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

Postby Donovan Ready » Tue Nov 03, 2015 10:38 am

I thought that was an oboe.. :?

What is the "weird gun"?
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Re: Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

Postby Doug Coulter » Tue Nov 03, 2015 1:14 pm

It's a Carbon-15 - a polymer receiver pistol modification of the AR-15 platform. It's an odd beast, no one even really has established how to hold one properly for best results, and this one isn't stunningly accurate - "minute of pie plate" at 25 yards off a rest - even with a scope. It will only reliably feed crappy M-855 ball ammo - that stuff they wanted to ban (dunno why, it's crappy in any gun I have), other bullet shapes or bullets with softer jackets jam it.
Posting as just me, not as the forum owner. Everything I say is "in my opinion" and YMMV -- which should go for everyone without saying.
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Re: Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

Postby Donovan Ready » Wed Nov 04, 2015 1:03 pm

Thanks.

My son's half-brother has a Zastava 5.56x45 pistol that's another strange beast. He calls it Bob Barker. :mrgreen:
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Re: Greetings, Coulter-Smithies

Postby Doug Coulter » Thu Nov 05, 2015 3:30 pm

This one is the second loudest gun I own. The loudest is a .50 BMG no one in their right mind shoots.
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