March 4, 2002
10:51 PM   Subscribe

The next threat to the Bush energy policy: Table-top nuclear fusion.
posted by mrbula (18 comments total)
"the researchers might be deluded by Mother Nature, whose principal object in life is to make fools of scientists."

This made me happy.
posted by homunculus at 10:59 PM on March 4, 2002

Next: laptop nuclear fusion, followed eventually by palmtop nuclear fusion.
posted by bingo at 11:02 PM on March 4, 2002

I saw a demo of this process (minus the actual fusion) while I was at UCLA. They used a single tiny bubble of air suspended (I can't remember how) in a bath of water. The luminecient bubble looked like a star shining in the liquid. The guys who were doing this at UCLA had an article in scientific american seven or so years ago, including instructions on how to do this at home.
posted by phatboy at 11:36 PM on March 4, 2002

Clever clever, Bing. :)
posted by donkeyschlong at 11:39 PM on March 4, 2002

bingo, I prefer desktop nuclear fusion, it's more expandable.
posted by panopticon at 11:53 PM on March 4, 2002

> Table-top nuclear fusion.

Oh, great. The Chinaware Syndrome.

> They used a single tiny bubble of air suspended (I can't
> remember how) in a bath of water.

Come on over my place on the kid's bath night and I'll show you how it's done.
posted by pracowity at 11:55 PM on March 4, 2002

Hrm. Well right now it put out less energy then it took to do, so it's not really a threat to anything at the moment.
posted by delmoi at 1:02 AM on March 5, 2002

If the experiment bears out and if the process can be used to create a self-sustaining fusion chain reaction that produces surplus energy (with a tiny device no less), it could very well solve a lot of problems.

How would you like to:
  • Provide everyone on the planet with drinkable water
  • Render the Kyoto Protocol moot
  • Dismantle the world's existing wire-based energy infrastructure
  • Take advantage of cheap interplanetary space flight
  • Circumnavigate the globe on your fusion-powered roller skates with a thimble full of deuterium
  • Experience ultra-realistic virtual reality pr0n. (One can hope??)
posted by rocketpup at 1:31 AM on March 5, 2002

Like rocketpup, I am praying to the dark chthonic gods to whom I pay allegiance (not really, but that sounded pretty good, didn't it, in an 80's faux-metalhead kinda way?) that this turns out to be for real and workable.

I'm serious.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:47 AM on March 5, 2002

This has caused much controversy already, even before its publication (due to be included on the Mar. 8 issue of Science).
Science magazine, it seems, was under pressure from Oak Ridge National Laboratory to cancel publication, necessitating the magazine to defend the publication in this editorial (PDF file). The original papers along with a news article describing the furor are linked to from this page.
We will have to wait and see if replication is possible, or if this was a fluke, resulting from a bad experimental setup.
posted by talos at 3:13 AM on March 5, 2002

The idea doesn't sound that bad - scaling it up may be a bit of a problem though.. Also, I'm sure the big energy magnates wouldn't want it to work, so it'll get a lot of bad PR if it doesn't turn out to be crud experimental procedure/mother nature being a fiendish lil imp again.
posted by Mossy at 4:39 AM on March 5, 2002

Since 'cold fusion' is taken, can we call it 'fizzy fusion'?
posted by Jos Bleau at 5:46 AM on March 5, 2002

It's not exactly cold fusion: The authors argue that inside the bubbles the temperature achieved is in excess of 1,000,000 degrees Kelvin (as would be necessary for fusion to occur).
It's locally hot fusion we're talking about.
posted by talos at 5:55 AM on March 5, 2002

How about "cool fusion"? Dig it!
posted by bingo at 7:21 AM on March 5, 2002

According to the science nerds on Slashdot, well respected nuclear physicists have tried to reproduce the experiment with better equipment and failed. Also, there is speculation that even if it were true, it is unsustainable as increasing temperatures would destroy the effect.

I don't know if the people on /. know what they're talking about, but they sounded believable, and I wouldn't be getting my hopes up for cheap portably energy just yet.
posted by willnot at 7:47 AM on March 5, 2002

"the researchers might be deluded by Mother Nature, whose principal object in life is to make fools of scientists."

What a profoundly stupid comment.

And I cast my vote for "bubble fusion," as is used in the graphic accompanying the article.
posted by rushmc at 8:11 AM on March 5, 2002

as soon as a better energy source is discovered, the energy companies will take it to court and deem it harmful to their business model, and get it banned. or they'll buy all the patents and file them away in a nice hidden box.
posted by afx114 at 8:33 AM on March 5, 2002

Since it requires sound waves, I'm voting for Jazz Fusion.
posted by dwivian at 9:44 AM on March 5, 2002

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