Moon Shot Miss — “The New Fire” (John Oman)

The following post was submitted by John Oman

On Sunday, September 6, 2015, CNN aired “Moonshots for the 21st Century: A Fareed Zakaria GPS Special” (Premiered December 27, 2014). A CNN promo states: “…a fascinating look at how harnessing the energy of nuclear fusion reactions may create a virtually limitless energy source, unlocking innovations in hypersonic flight, and revealing the power of the mind by mapping the brain.  Will astronauts reach Mars by the 2030s? Will it soon be possible to 3D-print human organs for life-saving transplants?…”

The following article is written in the form of an open letter to Fareed/GPS.

To: Fareed and the GPS Team, [email protected]

Subject: “Moonshots for the 21st Century: A Fareed Zakaria GPS Special” – A Critique

First let me state (IMHO) that the Global Public Square (GPS) is the best show of its kind and I frequently display my brilliance by mentioning it to others. Your topic selection and coverage are timely and comprehensive. Somehow I missed the earlier airing of the subject show and thank you for airing again.

That said, your ‘Moonshots’ show did not include the current technological breakthrough that will dwarf the significance of those you did mention, combined. In keeping with the analogy, your ‘Moonshots’ missed. Allow me to elaborate…

You did include the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). Quoting several points from your piece:

  • “If it’s successful, it would be one of mankind’s most significant achievements ever.”
  • “A milestone that could change the world.”
  • “…exploiting a huge energy source.”
  • “…it would have a profound impact on our lives.”
  • “…wouldn’t produce any carbon emissions.”

I concur. The technology breakthrough I’m writing about is a cousin to the ITER.

The ITER utilizes the brute force of immense, complex machinery and ‘star like’ high temperatures and energies to crush the nuclei of two atoms together to a point where they fuse into a heavier nucleus/atom and release the desired energy. This high temperature/energy fusion technology has become known as ‘hot fusion.’

The cousin does not ‘outwardly’ require or generate these extreme high energy/temperature conditions and has become known as Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR) or ‘cold fusion.’ While ‘star like’ conditions may exist within the LENR reactor at the point of reaction, the reaction sites are of nano scale and contained within the crystalline lattice of a solid metal. LENR has also been referred to as “the new fire” in that it will supplant our burning of fossil fuels for energy.

My layman’s comparison of the status of the two technologies is provided in the table below:

HOT FUSION LOW ENERGY NUCLEAR REACTION (LENR)
High energy hot fusion research has been going on for 75 years funded primarily by governments. The US DOE Fiscal Year 2015 High Energy Physics budget is $766M and the FY2016 request is for $788M. The estimated cost of the experimental ITER under construction is 10 to 15 billion Euros. The LENR discovery was announced (pre-maturely) in 1989 by Martin Fleishmann and Stanley Pons at the University of Utah. They had difficulty replicating experiments and failed to convince a skeptical scientific community (with vested interests in hot fusion) of their claims. While Pons and Fleishmann went into self imposed exile, others have quietly continued to work leading to several world patents and a US patent with several more pending. Funding has been primarily by individuals and small companies.
ITER is not scheduled to be started up until 2020 (signs of gridlock; don’t hold your breath). Despite the years, effort and expenditures, hot fusion has not generate any usable surplus energy. (Not counting the destructive energy of the “H” bomb.) A 1MWatt LENR system is currently operating in an industrial environment in the US and closing in on the completion of a yearlong certification test. A growing number of successful LENR experiments and replications have been conducted in small laboratories around the world.
Hot fusion reactors are huge, high energy systems and inherently dangerous. LENR reactors can be made in small sizes, are inherently self limiting and no more dangerous than a traditional steam boiler.
The large cost, size and danger of hot fusion reactors necessitates that they be built, owned and/or controlled by governments and/or very large and monopolistic energy corporations. LENR systems can be built, purchased, installed and operated at low cost by small entities and individuals.
The large size and danger of hot fusion systems necessitates that they be located away from population centers. This requires utilities with expensive power distribution grids (which are inherently inefficient). The size, scalability and safety of LENR reactors allows them to be located on site where their energy is needed. There is no need for electrical utilities or expensive and inefficient electrical distribution grids.
The cost and complexity of hot fusion systems makes them unaffordable and impractical by/in most countries. The cost and simplicity of LENR systems makes them affordable and practical for use even in the most impoverished areas of the world.
The physics of hot fusion is well understood and agreed upon by the scientific community. The physics of LENR is not well understood though a number of theories are under debate. (Note that our ancestors utilized ‘the old fire’ for many thousands of years before discovering it was an oxidation process.)
Enormous cost, collaborative and technological hurdles remain to be solved before the experimental ITER can be switched on for the first time. LENR is operational. Technological improvements, reliability and ROI certifications are needed to market industrial systems. Additional regulatory certifications are needed before consumer products can be placed on the market.


 

So what’s my point?

TIME: Our continued reliance on fossil fuels is pushing us ever closer, potentially, to a global warming tipping point. Some argue that we are already there. While hot fusion systems such as the ITER may eventually be successful, they will clearly be expensive and will not be available for worldwide usage for decades, if ever.

COST: If the goal is to “…power humanity with fusion for millions of years…” as stated in your “Moonshots” piece, it must be affordable by and for humanity. Humanity is inclusive of many more than those residing in the richest countries. Many are already in desperate straits.

Can humanity afford to wait and see if ITER / hot fusion can solve the problem? My answer is No.

If a fraction of the hot fusion budgets had been directed to LENR research, it would already be providing a major percentage of the energy we consume today.

We (society) should be directing our attention toward the LENR / cold fusion technology and devoting a percentage of our public R&D resources to studying the underlying physics.

What say you?

Thank you for listening.

Sincerely,

John Oman

OmanTek

Link to the original Premiere promo: http://www.cnnasiapacific.com/programs/en/program/948/

Link to a CNN site where the show can reportedly be viewed: http://cnnpressroom.blogs.cnn.com/2015/02/11/moonshots-for-the-21st-century-a-fareed-zakaria-gps-special-now-available-exclusively-via-cnngo/

Link to a transcript of the show: http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1503/15/fzgps.01.html

Link to Fareed Zakaria’s site: http://fareedzakaria.com/

Disclaimer: The above is offered for the purpose of discussion and to encourage others to look into LENR themselves. The statements reflect my impressions, understanding and opinions derived primarily from material found on the intranet.

 

  • Leonard Weinstein

    John,

    You have covered the comparison between hot fusion and LENR well, but made a major mistake in your closing comments. It is now clear that human burning of fossil fuels has not been the main cause of the small warming of the last century, and the increase in temperature (mainly natural variation, with no further increase the last 18 years), and of CO2 levels (which is man driven and still rising, but of no bad effect), has only had good effects (increased crop production). The natural move away from fossil fuels will be driven by the finite resource becoming less available and then more expensive in the near future, so there is a need to replace it, but making the argument that global warming (and other problems) caused by use of the fossil fuel, is the problem, is just making a big mistake. Low cost and locally available inexpensive power is needed for a prosperous society, but don’t make the mistake of finger pointing when you are not aware of the facts. It actually turns out that about half or the worlds scientists do not support the global warming scam, and the other half only have a small number that are fully up to date on the data, that do support it. The rest are not sure, but tend to say they accept the position because most funding is directed to supporters, and money talks.

    • Leonard Weinstein

      I have a power point which is an update by me, from a presentation by Burt Rutan, on the human caused global warming issue. It can be accessed at:
      https://drive.google.com/file/d/OB-ZfEkgmBH37RmNXMkFzczIjUUO/view?usp=sharing

    • Axil Axil

      Using up all the planet’s reachable fossil fuels would release thousands of gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere—far more than the 600 to 800 gigatonnes needed to make the West Antarctic ice sheet unstable, they write in a new study in Science Advances. The ice on the eastern part of the continent would likely break up and melt afterward. Eventually Antarctica would be nearly as bald as Michael Chiklis, as shown in the bottom-right graphic in this sequence of emissions models (brown areas represent exposed bedrock):

      https://cdn.theatlantic.com/assets/media/img/posts/2015/09/antarctic/398172c20.jpg

      • Allan Kiik

        There are predictions by climate models which assume too big sensitivity of CO2 change. All recent literature implies about 3-5 times smaller sensitivity and this is only the beginning, there are plausible arguments for zero sensitivity now when fossil fuel burning rate is at historical top level while global temperature standstill is nearing 19 years.
        Antarctica is a very good example , Dr. James Hansen from NASA GISS predicted in his 1984 article http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha07600n.html large sea ice loss in Ross sea, but what really has happened is continuous cooling of Antarctica and the ocean around it. Sea ice is growing and so are the glaciers, as expected when climate cools. It is the exact opposite to what was predicted and this is only one example, there are lot of other similar predictions.
        https://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/spectacularly-poor-climate-science-at-nasa/

      • Leonard Weinstein

        Axil Axil it is amazing that most main stream publications like Science Advances make such nonsense claims. This is the main reason the fear of human caused global warming has such deep roots. However if you did a due diligence in-depth exam of published data and comparison of skeptics arguments vs supporters of CAGW, you would come to the astonishing conclusion that a major error has been made. The problems with the article you quote are two fold:
        1) the sensitivity of temperature increase to CO2 increase is given by models (not data), which have been conclusively shown to have no skill, and which can never have skill beyond very short periods. The data totally refutes the models. If you had any real understanding of the complex non-linear equations involved (such as Navier-Stokes and radiation laws, and poor resolution boundary and initial conditions), you might start to understand that this is a bounded Chaos problem.
        2) The CO2 rate of release in the atmosphere is presently known, and the future rate (assuming no increase in Nucler, LENR, solar, or wind) is also narrowly restricted. The release of all of the Carbon would take several centuries, and the decreasing availability of reasonable priced Carbon would actually cause a decrease within this century. Since there will be increase in Nuclear, LENR, solar and wind, even less Carbon will be released. However, even if all the Carbon were released in the century, the increase in temperature would be small, based on present DATA evidence of the sensitivity. CO2 simply does not cause the problems stated.

        An additional point is that the last 3 interglacials had significantly higher temperatures than the present Holocene, and the Antarctic did not melt. The claims are nonsense.

    • Job001

      You seem to understand part of the issue, several subtle and not so subtle factors remain; First, Co2 is only slightly effective at increasing crop yield for certain plants all of which are limited by other factors such as fertility, water and rainfall variations, temperature extremes, sunlight, insects, viruses, and so forth.
      Secondly, a big often ignored anthropomorphic factor is the cutting down of forests, which can be described as “the lungs of the world”.
      Third, fertility related yield maximizes reasonably correlated with soil carbon which increases as one moves away from the equator, and this “best region” is narrowing and migrating toward the poles with a few weeks earlier springs and irritate falls.
      Most of climate scientists are fully on-board with the newer climate models, paid non-climate non-scientists shills have also been implicated as naysayers. This paid shill process appears to be like the tobacco study scams or the false scientist of part of the 40% of the pharmacy studies for new drugs which cannot get replicable results.
      Conclusion, while not a conspiracy, bad science does often results from “Funding biased” studies. Modern science does not have adequate controls for “Funding Biased” science at both the grant or publication review or blog discussion levels. It happens time and again and it has become a very big science or corruption of science issue.

      • Leonard Weinstein

        Job001, I was only referring to CO2 effects. I do think cutting forest is a problem. However, you are telling me nothing on the issue of plant growth, but you clearly do not have the facts on the net effect of increased CO2 on plant growth. I know there are many factors for crops, but you seem to not know that greenhouses add CO2 to about 1000 ppm to increase production. There are a very small number of losers, but far more winners with more CO2. However, your comment on paid shills is a red flag showing your ignorance. The funding for skeptical scientists is less than 1% the funding specifically to scientists to find CAGW effects. The best way to not get funding (at universities, or federal labs, or institutes) on the issue is to propose a real study on the true cause of the recent small warming. Also note that the oil companies, for example, are a major contributor to GREEN funding, and only a small contributor to skeptics (in an effort to find the truth). The vast majority of scientific skeptics are mainly those that did unfunded independent examination of the issue in depth (as I did). The major corruption of science now happens to be the supported position on human caused global warming.

        • Job001

          Good point on funding which illustrates “Funding Bias” against basic research. Anthropomorphic effects also include but are not limited to cutting or burning forests, GM foods, extensive biocide and herbicide use, other pollutions(like fluorocarbons), and extensive mono-crop plantings.
          Controlled greenhouse effects of which I’m fully aware of, are not uncontrolled ecosystems which typically limit plant growth by many other factors much more than sometimes beneficial CO2 does.
          We can disagree on what may best illustrate corrupt “Funding Biased” science since being right in the midst of it, a benefactor, and unable to see the “Forest for the trees” might be too tough to ask of anyone.

          • Omega Z

            No time for a major discussion, but GW is a distraction to keep you occupied so as not to see whats really going on.

            It’s like the guy who bumps into you on the street causing you to spill your coffee. You’re so upset about the spilled coffee on your suit, you don’t realize he’s walking on down the street with your wallet in hand. “There’s much in common here.”

    • Roland

      http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2014-hottest-year-on-record/

      The simple version for dummies…

      Where are your ‘facts’ from, I’d love to see the sources for your views?

      • Leonard Weinstein

        Roland, I have so many facts that I can’t put them on line here. However, if you go to google and put in Leonard Weinstein, you can access many of the writeups, and sources. In particular, look at the writeups that were posted in 2009 on the “Air Vent” under my name as a start. Then go to google and put in Burt Rutan. At some of the sites, he has a power point with sources. Much of his ppt was derived from my 2009 post, and added specifics much better. A good discussion site in general is WUWT, which is the most widely followed scientific site on the issue in the world. You can also go to many of the sites shown at WUWT. In particular, Judith Curry (professor at GA tech), who was previously a supporter of the CAGW problem, decided to discuss the issue with skeptics to convince them of their error, and who was instead convinced the skeptics were likely closer to the truth. If this is not enough I have much more.

        • the fact that there is record years is normal if temperature is increasing slowly, or just stable.

          if you did the same trick in 1940 you would obtain the same statistices.
          earth is warming the same since the end of little ice age.

          the open question is if something changed arouns 1950, when regular warming with multidecadal oscilations added, stopped being natural to be artificial.

          note also that the quantity of corrections is increased each year , to warm recent period and cool older period.

          if we did the same for cold fusion experiments, they will call us crook.

          I cannot say if AGW is real or not, but what I see is crony science.
          climategate, like cold fusion story, proved that there is a huge influence by few authors to block dissenting papers.

          Judith curry report the same violence and bias in climate community, as Eugene mallove at MIT. both were insiders

          the climate model are clearly broke, according to the IPCC itself, while confidence in the result is increased in the executive summary.
          every report add many uncertainties, while confidence increase…

          there is clear violence agains the dissenters, wil billion of money is dumped on climate science, and witchhunt reports few k$ at best…

          it is the same witchhunt against GMO companies by activists.

          most oil company invest in green energy which increase CO2 as eny serious engineer could predict.

          I’m tired of that scam, when I heard our skeptics insulting rossi.
          all the red flag agains climate science are raised… increasing corrections of data, attacks agains dissenters, crony peer review, flawed models, divergence between datasources, growing funding and apeel to morality, even appeal to religion recently from bin Laden, from the Pope…

          maybe AGW is real, but not yet, and we have no credible evidence of it, since model is broken, ethic is broken, money flood a biased community, terror develop against dissenters, meta-disinformations tactics is employed at huge scale.

          LENR story , finance bubbles, Internet bubble, trained me painfully to recognize that… it is pseudo-science, funded by government, exploited by vested interest business and NGO, and even some malthusianists ideologies and neoreligious sects.

          anyway AGW real or not, is solved by LENR.
          peace to all, and please stop funding the green scam.
          Fund no-regret solution as Judith Curry says.
          LENR is no-regret.

  • Alan DeAngelis

    The beauty of hot fusion is that it will be centralized.
    With hot fusion the senile necrophiliacs who run the planet will still be able to live in their castles and keep the rabble under their thumb until they can be properly disposed of. This decentralized LENR thing is nothing but trouble.

    Thank you CNN.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxGqcCeV3qk

  • Leonard Weinstein

    bachcole, I am a strong supporter of LENR and Rossi. However, the wide spread introduction of LENR will not be very short term, (few years), but likely gradually over decades. The technology is not going to replace much existing infrastructure, which has already been installed and paid for. It would more likely be slowly introduced in new infra-structure. The cost saving when it is installed also is yet to be determined (cost includes more than power cost, it includes system cost, installation and connection to existing systems, and operation cost. Most likely the saving would be long term power cost, but if the up front cost is too high, the conversion would be slow. Rossi’s idea of leasing and charging for delivered power is a solution for some large systems, but again the short term implementation would be limited. There is presently no practical LENR version shown for individual homes, and development and incorporation of these, in a large scale, is decades off at best. Use in autos, and other uses are still not shown, but likely will eventually happen. The result is that it would eventually gain wide use, but likely slowly over decades. These same decades are also the period that fossil fuel use would likely go down, even without LENR. Nuclear power, including small local plants, could do much of the job, and electric cars and other devices reduce the dependence on fossil fuels. The final issue is how economical LENR can be made, and this is not determined yet.