free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ... taking an imposing analytic toolkit out of the box, over the wall and into the street ... with callous disregard for accepted wisdom and standard English

reading tea leaves from original angles, we've led with uncannily prescient takes on the federal surplus, the dotcom crash, the "Energy Crisis", the Afghan campaign, the federal deficit.

More where those came from ... stay tuned.

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All "major" articles of older material have now been imported, some with updates worth perusing. We'll keep it all on the main page for a while, will add a few loose pieces of history, will trim the main page and index the archives for convenience later.


free agent, loose cannon, pointy stick ...
... gateway to the next Progressive Era?
Some say it's nothing but a train wreck ... roll in the big cranes, clear the track, see what the crew was smoking. If I thought so, I'd not be writing this ... and if they thought so, they'd not be drumming so hard.

Many thanks to Tony Adragna and Will Vehrs, still shouting 'cross the Potomac at QuasiPundit. Early Camp Enron material can be found in QP's Dispatches department.
Friday, March 08, 2002

--- Tabletop Fusion - No, but Yes, but No ---

The recently report of fusion in a small device at approximately room temperature and pressure has the earmarks of an irreproducible result. The most likely interpretation at this point is that the experimenters mistook the effects of an incident neutron source (part of the apparatus) for the effects of fusion, but ...

Few will be surprised if fusion is eventually confirmed in some similar experiment. Unlike deuterium/palladium cold fusion, this model is backed by well-accepted theory. Cavitational collapse of bubbles in fluid can produce extremely small domains of astronomical temperature and pressure. Feed the right elements into the cavity, and it should work, but ...

Suppose it works only in ways that can't scale up, that can't be used to produce net energy. Sonoluminescent cavitation requires delicately regulated temperature and pressure in the working fluid. Each fusion microburst drives the surrounding fluid far from this sensitive equilibrium. A large-scale reactor would have to capture the fusion energy products -- heat, neutrons, gamma rays -- as heat, without overheating the reaction vessel. And a "big bubble" model would presumably sacrifice the symmetry required to achieve ideal conditions at the center of collapse.

Next, fusion would attack the working fluid's chemical composition. In this case it's acetone, presenting three highly reactive elements (C, H, O) to a series of high-energy reactions. I can only guess at the reaction products, but acetone wouldn't be among them. [Industrial reactors might use heavy water or deuterides of lithium, berylium, boron, nitrogen, fluorine ... where there's no extended menu of downstream chemical and nuclear reactions.]

Finally, you'e got those neutrons flying around, being absorbed by other nuclei -- in the working fluid, in the apparatus, in whatever you're using to capture them on purpose.

What if this is all just a tease by Mother Nature? Great, now you can demonstrate fusion in the high school science lab ... but it stops there, and your zillion dollar magnetic confinement reactors aren't progressing much better.