Thursday, September 28, 2006

The World Turned Upside Down...

China's building fusion reactors, while New York City's banning trans fats and begging a supermodel to come to her trial.

These backwards nations are too busy with their arcane laws and too worried about pleasing their aristocrat class to make any headway in the serious areas of science or engineering. Such topics are too dull for the flighty natives.



Heartless Libertarian said...

If they didn't say whether they got more energy out than they put in, they didn't.

My dad retired a few years ago from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). They've been doing fusion on the same scale for a couple decades, at least. See National Ignition Facility, Nova, and Shiva (where parts of Tron were filmed), plus they were also doing something with electromagnetic fusion, IIRC.

There are some very serious engineering challenges in the way of building a fusion reactor to actually produce power. But you can bet that as soon as it can be done, if it's cheaper and/or less regulated than current sources, commercial power companies will be all over it.

And the environmentalist/NIMBY crowd will fight it, because who wants to live next to an H-bomb?

Art Eatman said...

I've read that the majority of all hard-science students in US Universities are foreign-born. The majority of US-born students are in some variant of the Liberal Arts.

Chinese universities are said to be graduating some half-million engineers per year.

Oh: Pebble-bed fission reactors, not fusion. 35 of them are under construction and/or planned.

And the Chinese now have mag-lev bearings for wind generators--plus a generating capacity of some 7.5 MW each. That's over twice what our best wind generators can produce (3.2 MW).


Dr. StrangeGun said...

I can build a fusion reactor in my garage (no, seriously, and I plan to.)

The question is, does it make useable output. The garage-built ones are something like 10e6 away.

All you need is a conductive vacuum chamber, a high voltage supply, an electrode globe, and some deuterium (yes, you can get it), and viola, homemade fusion. for more.

B&N said...


I bet you're right with the numbers of students, and what they are "studying".

Want to bet how all those liberal arts twerps will spend the next 60 years of their lives? I'm putting my money on liberal organizations, foundations and activist causes, while the rest of the world is planning our demise with all of their new found knowledge. Shocker, isn't it.

All show, no substance. We now have at least 3 generations in this nation where critical thought has become largely meaningless, and those who can do it are regarded as either uptight, or branded and villified because we know what can, and can't, be acheived. For them, it's just a matter of perspective, for us, it's what we can prove.

Where's that reset button?

Yosemite Sam said...

"Want to bet how all those liberal arts twerps will spend the next 60 years of their lives?"

Learning Chinese?

Even back in the 80's when I went to school, the Enginnering School was
full of Chinese students who spent their Fridays in the library studying instead of drinking themselves into oblivion.

Another factor is that Chinese people and intellectuals don't hate their own culture and history. We all know how our intellectuals feel about ours.

I really don't see how the Chinese and Indians won't be running the world 50 years from now if we don't wake up.

B&N said...


Spot on.

I know several folks who've long since caught on to the concept of moving to where the work is.

A longtime friend of my wife's (Both of them German expats who both married abroad) used to work for a major steel provider, and made a mint in China, where he met his wife. He made a move to a competitor when a more lucrative offer came along, go figure.

He speaks five languages fluently, could sell shit to a pig farmer, doesn't mind 20 hour work days, and has a Midas touch at business in general.

Meanwhile, all Americans seam to want is a birth-issued iPod, big screen plasma TV and their Lay-Z-Boy, while collecting a fat pension or unemployment, and bitch about how disenfranchised they "feel".


mediageek said...

Aww, c'mon Tam! America is still doing great on the science front!

American schools are on the cutting edge of teaching Intelligent Design.

Other countries aren't even anywhere near teaching something so cutting edge.

Heartless Libertarian said...

From my dad, a retired LLNL engineer:

"The Chinese area bit behind the curve in the fusion business. The Princeton Tokamak produced temperatures of 510 million degrees Celsius and 10.7 million watts of controlled fusion power before its shutdown in 1997. The current international effort is towards the ITER project which will construct an advanced Tokamak in France. It is expected to generate 500 million watts of power for a net gain of ten. Tokamaks are essentially doughnut shaped magnetic bottles which contain and compress the super-hot plasmas. LLNL is a contributor to the ITER project. LLNL for many years pursued plasma confinement using a magnetic mirror scheme until the Feds decided to fund only the Tokamak approach.

LLNL is currently running small scale experiments using a device called a Spheromak to contain the plasma. See"

Draven said...

Wow, it ran for three seconds!

If they had broken even, much less produced an excess of energy, they would have said so, It would be all over the science news.

But it isn't.

Sigivald said...

Those "half million engineers" in China aren't all exactly what we'd call "engineers" here.

Calling them "engineers" doesn't mean they actually have the eqivalent training or knowledge or someone with a four year engineeering degree from a serious American college.

(Remember, you can get a degree with "engineer" in the title from DeVry in under two years... I'm not exactly quaking in my boots worrying about Amazing Chinese Engineering, from everything I've heard about the quality of the "engineers" in question.

Not to say that their best aren't as good as our best, intellectually, but to say that not all "engineers" are really what you think of as "engineers". And that half a million a year figure assuredly is not that.)

Art Eatman said...

sigivald, the point is that they are providing far more technical expertise--whatever the level--than we are.

I think it's a reasonable generality that future economic strength of any nation will depend on the quantity as well as the quality of technically-trained people. The hard-science and hands-on folks.