So... what if it didn't work?

If polywell fusion is developed, in what ways will the world change for better or worse? Discuss.

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Jeff Peachman
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So... what if it didn't work?

Post by Jeff Peachman »

Suppose the peer reviews over and we're told that theres one or two reasons why the polywell won't work. Now we have an extremely dedicated group of people here who are so "sure" it will work that I feel we'd have trouble accepting the news (I'm probably in that category).

So what would everyone do next? Start you own amature community of polywell builders, scrounging parts and money from wherever you can, trying to prove that is it, in fact, possible? Or would you believe that it won't work?

Just a hypothetical =)

-Jeff
- Jeff Peachman

Betruger
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Post by Betruger »

Definitely see all the experimental data before any decision...

ravingdave
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Re: So... what if it didn't work?

Post by ravingdave »

Jeff Peachman wrote:Suppose the peer reviews over and we're told that theres one or two reasons why the polywell won't work. Now we have an extremely dedicated group of people here who are so "sure" it will work that I feel we'd have trouble accepting the news (I'm probably in that category).

So what would everyone do next? Start you own amature community of polywell builders, scrounging parts and money from wherever you can, trying to prove that is it, in fact, possible? Or would you believe that it won't work?

Just a hypothetical =)

-Jeff

I think we would look at the reasons why it won't work, and see if there is a workaround. If there is not, then the most sensible thing to do is to abandon it.


David

Mike Holmes
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Post by Mike Holmes »

You'd really have trouble accepting it, Jeff? I mean, like you'd go into denial?

Are you seeing somebody for this problem? Does it extend only to Polywell, or does it happen in other areas of your life (have you been unable to let go of "flat earth" theories?) Seek psychiatric help immediately.

If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, and you go watch somebody else. Uh, I'm already watching other folks. Aren't you?

This isn't a religion, it's science. No faith required. In fact, skepticism required. It's OK to be hopeful about a project. But it's not OK to lose your objectivity.

I, for one, have appreciated Art Carlson's extraordinary patience in working as devil's advocate in this arena. I hope he's wrong, but having a dissenting voice keeps the process honest. Or at least helps.

Mike

Jeff Peachman
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Post by Jeff Peachman »

Hahaha

Mike, I appreciate your comment because I'm normally the one that says what you just said, and I realise I may have mistyped. I'd have to look at the evidence first and see the critiques of others, because I could be skeptical of some of the reviewers. I wouldn't blindy say that it has to work.

(edit: I did say I would have trouble accepting the news, but thats a perfectly natural emotion when faced with something you've invested time in and believed. That doesn't mean I wouldn't accept it eventaully)

So far, I've brought up polywell with a few of my friends who are physics majors and they argue why they think it won't work, and although they are the physicists I don't accept their critiques. (I'm an aerospace engineer, and we have a reasaonably decent education in electricity and magnetism but not necesarily plasma or fusion... unless you specialize in electric propulsion. I understand the basics, and some of the math, though.)

I am a staunch advocate of healthy skepticism, though sometimes I have to catch myself with certain subjects to make sure I don't get carried away.

For example, I criticize others on issues such as religious faith because they aren't being skeptical, but five minutes later I tell them "Cars will be able to drive themselves within 20 years," but the evidence I can show them isn't sufficient to convince them of that. Arguably, while it is enough evidence to convince me, I shouldn't make predictions in a tone that conveys I am 100% sure of the prediction. But it's still different than religious faith and I don't make these claims blindly, you just have to be careful how you present such beliefs.

I think I simply put pretty poor emphasis on the point of my post. I brought the subject up because although I hope it works, I just realized that everyone on the forum would be really let down if it didn't work. I think everyone should think about it so its not such a big shock if it happens.

But it was pretty interesting to be at the other end of the "Please seek psychiatric help immediately" speech for a change =)

(Note: editted a few times for better wording, I'm not the best writer)

-Jeff
- Jeff Peachman

Torulf2
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Post by Torulf2 »

I have experienced the same thing in a sceptical forum. In a discussion about the oil turn pike I tell them about alternative fusion method BFR, FRC, DPF, EST, MTF. And the “sceptics” said “You have only to rely on the consensus in the fusion science”. So if there is any way to fusion it will be the tokamak. In there thoughts the polywell may not be more realistic than LENR or ZPE.

If the polywell not works there are the other alternatives for fusion to explore. And in worse case 4generation fission and solar cells.

Helius
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Post by Helius »

Torulf2 wrote:If the polywell not works there are the other alternatives for fusion to explore. And in worse case 4generation fission and solar cells.
If "polywell" doesn't work, then there will be some great questions unanswered. There'd be great opportunity for new hypotheses. My worst fear is that Gubberment dumps prolific and cheap nose to the ground science like polywell for more mega projects that are easier to keep track of, and get more political mileage. Actually, I don't expect Polywell to "work" at all, but the expected value of this data gathering is immense nonetheless. Even without seeing the data, this can't help but be the best 'bang for the buck' of any fusion research on the planet.

Might as well build a big 'un. 8)

tonybarry
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Post by tonybarry »

The review process is not enabled with God-like powers, so it might be wrong on "things". But the process itself is all good. More review, the better, I think.

If the review provides any answer, it will show either
- the polywell **cannot** work because of physics reasons
- the present design does not work due to engineering issues, but might work if things were built differently, or
- the present design has a good chance of working to produce net power with appropriate scale-up.

In the first case, I will be happy that the scientific method has shown another area where dreams do not equal reality.

In the second case, I will hope for continued funding.

In the third case, where do I sign up?

Regards,
Tony Barry

djolds1
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Post by djolds1 »

Torulf2 wrote:I have experienced the same thing in a sceptical forum. In a discussion about the oil turn pike I tell them about alternative fusion method BFR, FRC, DPF, EST, MTF. And the “sceptics” said “You have only to rely on the consensus in the fusion science”. So if there is any way to fusion it will be the tokamak. In there thoughts the polywell may not be more realistic than LENR or ZPE.
The utility and prestige of peer review is over emphasized. Established eminences are as likely to get caught up in group think as any group of people with careers invested in specific issues. And people selected for their purported meritocratic excellence are even more prone to delusions of grandeur then the general population.

Science demands replicable real world experiment, or it is nothing more than metaphysics.

Duane
Vae Victis

Mike Holmes
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Post by Mike Holmes »

Will folks be let down iof the news is bad? I suppose a little. But I think that most folks here will just move on. Is there another productive option?

As a statistician by trade, I have a strong feeling that the results of the experimentation will be very grey. I doubt that they will kill Polywell outright, but they'll show some serious problems that'll demand further models and testing. I think the chance of it being an outright proof of failure of the method is about equal to the chance of it being an outright proof of the viability of the method. Small on either tail of the curve.

Set your expectations realistically, and you'll find that you're happy with whatever results are produced. Works for me, at least.

To misquote the bard: Neither an optimist, nor a pessimist be.

Mike

JohnP
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Post by JohnP »

I'm curious how demanding the Navy will be regarding strong, positive results. If it looks too iffy, ie could work with significant redesign, maybe, will they let Polywell drop?

If the Navy drops Polywell and there are design issues but no drop-dead physics issues, would there be a white knight out there?

Jeff Peachman
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Post by Jeff Peachman »

And, if they do decide to continue funding beyond small scale WB-8, 9, possibly even 10, will the Navy fund the DD for $150 M?

Or will it get transfered to DOE? How will that get handled?
- Jeff Peachman

JohnP
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Post by JohnP »

And, if they do decide to continue funding beyond small scale WB-8, 9, possibly even 10, will the Navy fund the DD for $150 M?

Or will it get transfered to DOE? How will that get handled?
I pray that EMC2 and ONR have this one worked out ahead of time. If the Navy puts a big smiley face on the WB-7 report and wishes to fund the WB-100, the higher level of funding will make it politically more visible. Will the DOE get all stinky over it? Will they say, hey, it doesn't look like a donut and it's not made from corn, so screw it?

drmike
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Post by drmike »

No, the DOE will want a slice of the pie. If there's good enough data to prove that a test system for net power should be built, they will wait in the wings for the results of that, then jump in full bore. No point in chewing up their funding for all their other projects - they have to play a zero sum game for starters. But if a net power system proves possible, you can bet they will want to carve a niche for themselves.

If it works, there will be lots of people fighting so they can play. There will be plenty of research to do, so it will all make sense to do it. Who will be in charge of what is the more likely political problem, not will it get done.

jmc
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Post by jmc »

I too believe the results will be decidedly grey, at an emmitter current of 10 amp through 10KV that's a overall heating power of 100kW and all into
a space of 0.008m^3, those kind of power injection densities are similar to many existing fusion devices, I'd be quite suprised if some neutron were not reported.

Nonetheless kudos to Dr. Nebel and his team for getting any plasma at all in 6 months, starting from scratch with a 4 man team on such a limited budget.

On the otherhand I very much doubt they will have any hard evidence that a 1m^3 reactor will achieve breakeven power, if they do, I will be gobsmacked.

* * * * * *

So long as we don't understand how plasmas behave inside a Polywell we should continue to investigate them, but at a low level of funding, if I was in charge of the peer review team, I would only be too happy to give an extra million or two (maybe even 10 milllion) to continue investigating the behaviour of these devices until we acquire a greater understanding of their operation.

For 100 million I'd need some pretty convincing evidence, frankly I can't really envisage how 6 months of data on one machine could possibly present sufficient evidence to justify such a radical increase in funding, you'd need atleast 3 or 4 small machines to derive any convincing scaling laws at all and Dr. Nebel himself said that past data was so nebulous and ill recorded that they had to treat WB-7 as a blank slate.

The HEPS was far too large and costly for a first device to test a completely new theory and giving 10 million pounds to build that great clunk of metal that ended up as a complete failure was a mistake, they should have started smaller and tested their hypothesis so that they had some handle of what they were getting into beforehand.

Similarly I think requesting $100 million dollars when you still don't really know what's going on inside your little machine would be a big mistake. It would be setting the project up for a fall. 100 million dollars may not be much for solving the world's energy problems but it is not good value for money with regards to creating some great big new machine from out of the blue whose underlying principles of operation are still not properly understood.

If such a $100 million dollar machine was indeed built, it would probably offer new insight into the behaviour of polywell systems, it would almost certainly not achieve its objectives of net power, by failing its objectives it could result in the whole programme being abandoned in disillusionment even if in principle a prudent well thought out approach could have actually eventually produced a successful fusion device.

In addition I believe a 10 million dollar system could equally offer more insight into the behaviour of magnetically confined polywell systems without running the risk of being axed in the event of failing to meet impossible objectives.

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