A fly in the Cathedral

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A fly in the Cathedral

Postby Doug Coulter » Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:22 pm

Just got this in after a glitch (one got lost in the mail) and it's a fun book indeed. I am struck by several things, one kind of off the wall, so I'll get that out of the way first.

At one point, I got into the detailed history of WWII, and got a ton of books (literally, maybe more than a ton) on it. This lead to noticing how often one author just copied from another and son on -- the same battles in about the same words, and many things left out (too much work for some authors to do research I suppose). But the most fun was the air war, with books from English and American authors. Boy to read those, reading the American ones, the English were bumbling fools who couldn't do it. To read the English, the Americans had no effect on the war effort.
Both are obvious BS to me -- both sides did yeoman work and a lot of brave guys gave their lives and obviously WE won -- all of us. But it was interesting to see the different viewpoints and arguments.

This book is like that in some ways. The English are center stage all the way, and this has info that none of my textbooks or science history books have (and it appears accurate in the bargain) about the details of C-W's experiments and the various personalties involved. None of the American books cover this anywhere near as well. I find it interesting that a couple of people, including Walton, were looking at cyclotron-like things before EO Lawrence, for example. Wish there were more details on that -- Chris might be reinventing one of those and could use the information!

I found it interesting that a lot of this was done before the power grid even existed, much as it is here now at my place, except I think I probably have less trouble with power. Things were sure moving quick then -- they might not have had to make their own rectifier tubes had they just waited until the need was actually there -- by then, there were commercial tubes!
And why was there so much trouble rectifying a tesla coil? Transit times should have allowed that with tube rectifiers, and the caps are that much easier at HF.

A standout for me was the actual voltages they found the effects at -- all my other books give more or less random numbers for that, don't agree in general. Yes, now I can get a cross section plot, but...it's nice to know what they saw with equipment only a little more primitive than mine. And funny (but oh so close to home) that they'd probably succeeded long before they knew, because they were looking for gammas when they were making alphas!

Fun book, I'll get Bill to read it so he can decide which of us is Cockroft, and which Walton :)
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: A fly in the Cathedral

Postby johnf » Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:16 am

Doug
Glad you are enjoying it --I thought you might-- I certainly did
you should rent it for a small fee to the others in near contact except Bill of course.
Being a Kiwi I'll take the idiosyncratic role of Rutherford while you fight it out with Bill who is Cockcroft

Walton is easy

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Re: A fly in the Cathedral

Postby chrismb » Mon Nov 08, 2010 4:37 pm

I've heard of this book, and so it sounds like I'd better look for a copy of it, but...

Doug Coulter wrote: -- Chris might be reinventing one of those and could use the information!


.. well I have no fear of that, but it does start an interesting conversation [that, thus far, I have only had with myself!]:

Prior to around the 50's, no-one had really gone to the trouble of trying to get energy out of fusion. Fission was too easy and, at the time, if anything fusiony looked likely to work then magnetic confinement looked like it.

Now to my way of thinking, this timing has proved critical to the unsuccess of fusion programmes. I shall explain this thinking; Rutherford set the stage for the need for a 1 MeV accelerator to explore the nucleus. We know the main bits and successes of that story..... But what of the story that didn't happen? What if at the same time as those advances folks had said, "hey, if we get particles up to a few 10's keV efficiently then maybe we can get fusion energy going"?

Y'see, it's my reckoning that if that had been figured out a bit earlier then my invention would have been invented at the same time. My invention cannot do the megavolt energies of these devices, it's not fit for that purpose. So it would not have been seen as any use then to the atom-cracking venture. Meanwhile, since then it's been hell-for-leather to a massive magnetic bucket for fusion, no-one's really thought to revisit what those 1930's guys would've thought to try out.

So I tend to think of my invention very much as a 20th century one because it is thermionic valve/magnetron/cyclotron technology. That's why I can [just about] get to a point where I can make it for myself, because it is bits of wire and metal bashed into shape with hammers and pliers, just like the valves of those old days.

So my thesis is that because this type of tech looked old-fashioned in the 50's and up to now, no-one has given 'low-energy' particle accelerators a rigorous rethink on what they might offer fusion. Let me put it just one more way; fusion researchers have forgotten that fusion is about fast particles and have gotten way-layed by plasma phenomena. They've forgotten that fusion comes about when a fast ion interacts with other ions and now only think about 'thermal plasmas'. Hence, IEC is not on any mainstream fusion agendas.
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Re: A fly in the Cathedral

Postby Doug Coulter » Mon Nov 08, 2010 5:36 pm

Oh, I'm misunderstood here. I was simply talking about approaches to accelerating and controlling particle beams via making them "whirl" vs linac kinds of stuff, not application specific. For example, C-W had no idea, and evidently neither did Rutherford, about increasing center-mass energy, taking advantage of momentum conservation by using colliding beams vs beam on target, even though that's Newton, not Einstein!

They really missed the boat there, but it's forgivable in an era where the idea of a beam was barely formed at all, focus was magic, and space charge effects weren't realized for how strong they are. We all know EO Lawrence came up with the working cyclotron (or was that really Stanly Livingston who didn't get proper credit for actually doing all the real work) and yet that's only one possible approach. It seems (according to the book) that what Walton was going for was more like a betatron, and indeed, that's one of the harder things to make work if I read my other books correctly -- in those cases, even respected authors don't seem to actually grasp it well enough to explain it clearly (to say the least). Since I don't actually know what Walton was trying, or the other fellow mentioned who seemed to have preceded him, I don't know if Cris invention (which doggone it Chris, you need to post up here!) is similar or not, but maybe it is, and maybe, just maybe, some of the problems he will run into trying to make it actuality have been solved -- which is what I was pointing out, or making the attempt to in the comment.

Yes, none of these people had the slightest intention of doing fusion for gain, and even Rutherford made that famous remark which I'll attempt to quote from memory here:
"Anyone thinking of getting energy from these atoms is talking moonshine".

But that's an application of an accelerator (or other thing) not the accelerator itself. Having the benefit of having seen Chris' patent application, I know what's in there, and I think it has a good chance of defeating the pitfalls mentioned in some papers on how electrostatic fusion can't work -- he solves thermalization hands down, eliminates concern about what some call Barkenhousen oscillations and others call monkey motion in cyclotrons, and a few other things besides. I think, like Dirac said of his equation, it may solve some problems Chris wasn't aware of when he dreamed it up, actually. Duh, that's not an insult is it? I wouldn't mind being compared to Dirac! (but it will never happen, I'm sure ;) )

But at least I got a rise outa ya, so go ahead and enlighten the rest of us so we can talk about it some -- maybe we find some things out that will help you along, or us, that's the point here.
I'm like Walton in that -- if someone beats me to it, they don't harm me, it merely makes me resolve to be quicker off the mark next time.
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: A fly in the Cathedral

Postby Joe Jarski » Mon Nov 08, 2010 7:49 pm

Am I allowed to take an uneducated guess on Chris's device? I don't want to ruin anything if he hasn't filed yet, but it might spark some talk on theory even if I'm way off.
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Re: A fly in the Cathedral

Postby chrismb » Mon Nov 08, 2010 8:08 pm

It's no 'big secret', though I am currently in the process of some further work so I am not being entirely forthcoming about all the details just yet. But basically I have pulled a Penning trap through itself, topologically like when you pull an inside-out sock back through and make it into a ball, so that there is a central electrode that was once the end caps of the Penning trap.

Normally you'd get a ball of 'cold' ions in a Penning trap, but in mine they can't collect at the centre [because there's an electrode there that pushes them away!] so they have to orbit instead. But when they orbit they might end up colliding with the background (like a cyclotron does) and the vast majority of ions would then thermalise before they can fuse (like a fusor). So what I do is rotate radial non-axisymmetric electric fields around the central electrode, and this keeps them in a particular orbit, even pulling them back up to energy after scattering off background [or...just very occasionally.... fusing!].

I'll go through all the detail I can, as soon as I get my a** in gear. There is [perhaps?] some detail to pile through to get to understand the device properly as it isn't really very intuitively obvious at first glance but, naturally, if it was particularly obvious then someone might've done it before! So a brief description here might not be enough but, fear not, I shall spill-the-beans soon enough!

In the meantime, I have ordered the book off Amazon (a 2nd hand hardback for £5 from the US, inc shipping!) and will inwardly digest and reflect on whether there are any parallels that might help the [slowing/ageing] thought processes.
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Re: A fly in the Cathedral

Postby Doug Coulter » Mon Nov 08, 2010 8:57 pm

Well, sadly the book doesn't give any details at all about those other devices, just the hint that some people were thinking about them, and who they were -- you'd have to chase that down.
If Chris releases me from the NDA I agreed to (not legally, but I keep my word) I can describe it a little better than that -- in a penning trap, the ions avoid one another for one thing.

I could pick nits with his idea as I understand it, and maybe even improve on it somewhat, but it has some basic strengths that are very valuable to someone trying to efficiently collide particles, and recover with minimal energy loss those that are "near misses" and "scattered off the path we want" quite elegantly, or in other words, solve the thermalization problems and some other energy waste issues -- that's a pretty big deal, actually. I can see a couple of other ways to make this work, but they aren't truly big improvements, just alternatives. I do not believe it will work perfectly as it was described to me or at high ion concentrations or gas pressures where scattering off neutrals or space charge would be a major problem, but -- that doesn't matter so much, actually, when you see the thing from 30,000 feet those are mere scaling kinds of issues that can be handled without too much further work.

I do agree, no one ever tried to make a low energy accelerator. I'm not sure this one will work at low energy either -- it may need more energy just to overcome space charge effects to get the effective luminosity up to the point of detectable fusion levels. But with what we can toss at that kind of problem today, trivially, does it matter? No, is my opinion. The thing deserves some attention, or so I think.
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: A fly in the Cathedral

Postby Joe Jarski » Tue Nov 09, 2010 12:08 am

Well, I wasn't that close, but I was going along a similar principal. The gears started turning when you mentioned thermionic valve/magnetron/cyclotron and I was thinking about this as I was headed out to meet some people for dinner. I'll start a new post in the theory section.
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Re: A fly in the Cathedral

Postby Bill Fain » Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:05 pm

Hi, Ok I pretty much read the book yesterday. I never usually read any books or novels, just short technical things, but this was fun to read. I think Doug is basically Cockcroft and Walton rolled into one; obviously more Walton as he does almost all of the work. I'm maybe more Cockcroft as I'm not there much and am I a big scrounger. -bill
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Re: A fly in the Cathedral

Postby chrismb » Thu Dec 02, 2010 2:41 pm

Blimey.. you must be a quick reader, Bill!

'Fraid I am a very slow reader and have gotten 1/4 way through the copy I picked up (£2.50 off Amazon - hardback!).

I've got a bit past the point where it says Walton went to see Rutherford and explained his idea of using a magnetic field and accelerating the particles each loop-around, which Rutherford poo-poo'd. (Is there any information on what he actually suggested later on?...)

At my speed of reading, the in-depth discussions on the details of every persons' little episodes here and there means it is a bit slow for me, I like getting down to the tech talk!! But, as they say, never judge a book by the first 100 pages (or something like that!!! ;) ).

Another I got off Amazon for next-to-nothing was “Fusion: The Search for Endless Energy” by Robin Herman;

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fusion-Search-E ... 0521383730

I got mine for £2.41! As a recommendation [and for that price] I think it is a very good read. Obviously focused on magnetic confinement, but there was just the right mix of chat, tech and biographic histories for me. Some interesting insights into Robert Hirsch's thinking as well – very much like us, it seems; get on with the darned experiments, too many have made plasma science the be-all and have forgotten they are meant to be doing fusion research!

[Edit; those were used book prices, of course. Most used books off amazon I have bought are like new, anyhow...]
Last edited by chrismb on Thu Dec 02, 2010 7:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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