The Krone Experiment

Normally I would be disinclined to mention a movie on a science and technology blog, however, The Krone Experiment plays on a particular fear that I have.

Scientists are attempting to create black holes in an accelerator. The idea being that if you can concentrate enough energy in a small enough space, a black hole will come into existence fleetingly.

That it will be a fleeting existence for the black hole is posited on a posited phenomena of Hawkings radiation. The idea is that virtual particles that come into existence right at the event horizon will become real because one will be sucked in and the other will escape and their inability to re-unite makes them real.

Now, because a particle escaped, conservation of mass it is theorized will require that the other particle going into the black hole will some how cause it to decrease in mass rather than increasing in mass.

This is placing way too much faith in a theory for my comfort. Usually, when you add mass to mass, it makes more mass not less. When you consider that the particle external to the event horizon became real because it couldn’t re-united with it’s virtual particle mate within the time allowed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principal, why wouldn’t the particle inside the black hole also become real and add to the mass?

If the conservation of mass applies in all circumstances then how is it the universe exists? It seems to me that gambling the fate of the entire planet and everyone on it on an untested theory is more than foolhardy.

If we don’t all blink out of existence first, it might be worth seeing.

China’s EAST Fusion Reactor

There is a lot of confusion regarding China’s new EAST fusion reactor. I can clarify things a bit.

All Tokamak fusion reactors build to date, including EAST, have been test reactors. They are not reactors intended for commercial power production. They are intended to study things like plasma characteristics, scaling laws, and to solve various problems inherent in creating and sustaining a controlled fusion reaction here on earth.

With the exception of EAST, all tokamak fusion test reactors built thus far have had copper coils for the magnets that confine the plasma. Because very high currents are required to produce the necessary magnetic fields, huge currents must flow through these coils which causes them to overheat in sixty seconds or less. Thus existing reactors have not been able to do research on things that involve long term operation. In addition, existing reactors dissipate a huge amount of heat from those coils and require a huge amount of refrigeration to remove it.

A commercial reactor will need to operate for months not seconds. To be practical, a commercial reactor will need to rely on superconductive coils for magnetic confinement. This will eliminate the energy lost to copper resistance and the heat associated with it, allowing long operations. Building coils from superconductors is a non-trivial engineering problem because most superconductors are brittle ceramic materials.

EAST is the worlds very first fusion reactor to use superconductive magnets for plasma confinement. This will allow it to do longer experiments maintaining a plasma for more than 15 minutes. ITER was to serve this purpose but the Chinese energy crises is too severe to wait twelve years to start answering questions pertaining to continuous operation. China assembled their own superconductive Tokamak reactor in seven months. Between engineering and fabrication of components the project has been in the works for about eight years. They are also participating in ITER but I believe they will be feeding fusion generated power to their power grid before ITER sees first plasma.

The western media has gotten the idea that China has already succeeded in creating 100 million degree plasmas of deuterium and tritium and controlled fusion. This is a misunderstanding which I suspect relates to the fact that the Chinese language does not have verb tense. The verb is the same for past, present, and future. China releases a news press release that states that the reactor had seen first plasma and that it will fuse deuterium and tritium in a 100 million degree plasma to produce energy and given the lack of tense in the Chinese verb took that to mean already had rather than will.

EAST saw first plasma in September, only seven months after construction began. This is a major milestone because it proved that the superconductive coils worked as designed, and since this had never been done before, that’s a major advancement towards commercial fusion power generation. First plasma and subsequent tests used ordinary hydrogen and not deuterium or tritium.

EAST has not produced any fusion power yet because it has not been fueled with the deuterium – tritium mixture that will fuse at the temperatures obtainable in a Tokamak reactor design. However, the accomplishments thus far is nothing to be sneezed at. The Chinese, in constructing EAST, tackled one of the largest engineering problems surrounding the construction of a commercial power generating fusion reactor by solving the superconducting magnetic confinement problem.

EAST is not a commercial power generation reactor. Commercial reactors will have a lithium blanket which will both capture neutrons preventing their escape and breed tritium from lithium. EAST will not have a lithium blanket. Commercial reactors will be have a capacity of around 600 MW but EAST will only operate at 15-20 MW power levels. Commercial reactors will be constructed to remove the heat (and use it to make electricity) continuously. EAST will only have sufficient cooling for about 15-20minutes of operation.

I do not know if EAST will be capable of scientific break even or not. Plasma confinement efficiency improves with the size of the device. My understanding is that it improves with the cube of the size, so a machine twice as large can confine plasma 8x better. EAST may not be large enough to achieve break even, but improvements in confinement technology have been reducing the minimum size of a machine capable of producing break-even.

Whether or not it achieves break-even it will answer many of the questions necessary towards engineering a commercial power reactor and it deserves to be recognized for the tremendous accomplishment that it represents.

Wayward Star

There is something strangely satisfying when nature thumbs her nose at our scientific theories. This article in describes a star gone super-nova too soon, just hours after a major star eruption.

I’ve never been completely comfortable with the theories of stellar evolution. The theories say that while a star is on it’s main sequence, hydrogen burning, it will increase in diameter by between 40% and 100%.

The sun is said to have increased in both size and temperature to the point where it’ s current luminosity is 25-30% more than it was four billion years ago. This would imply an increase of around 5% in the last 500 million years but there is no evidence of that.

By most accounts while our Sun won’t run out of hydrogen for another five billion years or so, they say it will swell and boil off the oceans in the next 500 million to one billion years. But given that the last 500 million years doesn’t seem to fit the models I don’t have a lot of faith that the next 500 million will. I’d hang around to check it out if I had the option but I don’t think I will.

Enter Alpha Centauri, 1.09 solar masses, 1.5 times the luminosity of the sun. I’m puzzled by this because a stars lifetime is normally estimated as 1/M2.5, in other words Alpha Centauri will only live about .81 as long as our Sun owing to the higher rate of hydrogen consumption. What I find interesting about this is that in spite of the higher mass, in spite of the higher age, Alpha Centauri’s spectral temperature is identical to our own Sun’s.

I tried to find a model that would show what to expect of our own Sun in terms of diameter and temperature throughout the main sequence. What I found, to my dismay, is that there are four or five and none of them seem to agree with observation. I also found estimations of core temperatures and density varied radically from one model to the next. I hope that this surprise stellar explosion may lead to a new and improved model.

Science Toys

Ran across a site called ““, Science Toys. This site has a plethora of simple science toys you can build. For example, look at this article on building a three penny radio. I wonder if Bill knows about this site.

I’ve added it to the side bar. Lots of neat things you can build, magnetic heat engines, high voltage motors (different than Bills contraption, this one is not a Mazda), and much more.

Photon’s Presence Changes Atoms Transition Energy?

I read this article in Science Daily and kind of shook my head. I’m hoping a kind and informed reader can explain this to me.

The jest of it is this; scientists have found a way to observe the creation, life, and death of a single photon. Prior to reading this article, I was under the impression that the only way to detect a photon involved it’s being absorbed by an atom raising that atoms energy state (causing an electron to leap to a higher orbit). This article suggests that the mere presence of a photon changes, very slightly, the transition energy of atoms.

I was of the belief that electrons had fixed energy levels and could only jump between them because the “orbit” had to be an integral multiple of the electrons wavelength.

So clearly either this article is bogus, and with yesterday being April Fools, that’s always a possibility; or there is yet another thing about quantum mechanics I was unaware of or failed to grasp.

So, Dear Readers, if you understand how this can happen, please leave a comment with a brief explanation or a pointer to one.

Thank you!

Open Source Fusor Research Consortium

I’ve added a link in the sidebar to the Open Source Fusor Research Consortium. For those not familiar with a fusor, it is a simplistic device that uses electrostatic forces to fuse deuterium.

These devices are presently not capable of achieving scientific break-even (more power from fusion than required to initiate the reaction) but there are people who hope to change that. Building this device is within the reach of an amateur experimenter and many people have done so. This website covers work on this specific device as well as related devices.

The device consists of two concentric spherical grids within a vacuum chamber in which air is pumped out and a low pressure deuterium gas is present. The inner most grid is charged with a negative charge, the outer grid with a positive charge, around 40 Kv between them. This strips electrons from the deuterium atoms and then accelerates the nucleus towards the center of the sphere where they collide with sufficient energy that some of them fuse.

What limits the efficiency and power output of these devices are the grids. A significant portion of the accelerated ions collide with the grid rather than continuing on to the center of the sphere. This heats the grid and results in a current flow which consumes and wastes power.

A particularly promising approach invented by Dr. Robert Bussard has produced fusion levels 100,000 times that of the original Farnsworth Fusor’s best run. It achieves this by eliminating the physical grid and using magnetic fields to steer electrons to create virtual grids.

Electrons are much lighter than deuterium nuclei but have the same magnitude charge (but opposite polarity). This allows a much weaker magnetic field to steer electrons into a desired configuration than is required to confine a plasma in thermal approaches to fusion.

Dr. Bussard’s research was funded by the US Navy for a number of years, but funding had run out in 2005. By that time the scaling laws of these devices had been determined and Dr. Bussard is confident that a device can be made that produces power.

Dr. Bussard, at 78 and with health issues, may never have the opportunity to bring his device to it’s potential. That is a shame because unlike thermal fusion, this device has the potential for fusing aneutronic fuels such as boron with hydrogen producing power without radiation. And such a device may be made small enough to power trains, ships, or large airplanes.

Take a look at the site, it’s a good site to follow if you want to know what is happening in the world of small scale amateur fusion devices.


Bill Beaty who runs the Science Hobbyst site told me about this video showing a Searl Effect Generator in operation.

If you look at the video you see only one ring, not the three mentioned on the website and the copper roller that does, once set in motion, continue to circle the device.

However, it’s clear from the sound that a “frictionless magnetic bearing” is definitely not in effect here. You can definitely hear the metal is touching as it rolls around the device.

The furthermore it is surrounded by a group of electromagnets, not shown in their animation on the website, which appear to be powered. This to me appears more like a motor than a generator, perhaps a shaded pole motor with a moving pole. If they unplug all the external power and it still goes around then I’ll be impressed.

I ran across this Searl Proof of Concept website which explains the “input power” required to make the roller roll around. Ok, just a magnet motor. No over-unity anything, not even any output.

Now if they get one of these that they do draw output from AND if the output is sufficient that it can also provide the input power requirements such that NO external connection or energy source is required to make this thing keep going, then I will find much more interest in it.

Perhaps I’m just not understanding the concept correctly. If something can provide significant free energy, I fail to see the necessity of zero friction magnetic bearings.

I do believe there are some interesting aspects of electromagnetism and how it relates to gravity and time that are not well understood. I don’t see these mock-up devices as tapping that in any way.

Take a look at the video, don’t be shy, use the comments and tell me what you think.

Piezoelectric Effect and LED’s

White light emitting diodes in general are not bright enough to be used for general room lighting. There are two general approaches to making visibly white light from LED’s today.

The least expensive and more common method of making white light from an LED is to combine a gallium nitride UV LED with a fluorescent material that converts the UV into visible light. This approach basically replaces an electric arc through mercury vapor as the source of UV with an LED that produces UV light. The efficiency of this approach is very similar to fluorescent lighting. Fluorescent lamps achieve around 18% efficiency, while incandescents achieve around 3%, so fluorescent lamps offer about a five fold efficiency increase over incandescent.

Single color super efficient light emitting diodes can approach 100% efficiency, presently this is most true for red and blue LED’s. To produce what appears as white light to us, green light is also necessary.

The human eye contains receptors for red, green, and blue light, as well as receptors that are receptive to a broader spectrum that are largely used for dark vision. Color televisions produce the visible range of colors that we see with only red, green, and blue light. A combination of red, green, and blue can appear white, or any other color in the spectrum except violet.

You may think you see violet on television but actually what you see is purple, and there is a subtle difference that you will only see if the violet is extremely saturated. Purple consists of a mixture of red and blue light. It appears similar to violet because of the way our visual system processes color.

The red receptor in our retina has a secondary response peak in the violet range. The blue receptor is also still sensitive in this range. So when our brain sees a signal from red and blue together, it “sees” violet. Where red and blue light fail to reproduce this is that the green receptor is also somewhat sensitive to blue light, so red and blue light together activate the red and blue sensors strongly but also somewhat activate the green giving the reproduced color a less saturated or washed out appearance that we call purple.

An LED lighting system based upon red, green, and blue, will produce a light that appears white and natural except that it can’t illuminate violet in a way that will make it appear violet and not purpose. For the most part this isn’t something people would notice. However, violet gallium nitride light emitting diodes exist so that could be addressed with a 4-color LED if it was really important.

A much more efficient lighting system can be created using super efficient single color LED’s. They will actually be more efficient because super efficient single color LED’s exist. Because each LED is producing light at the peak of one of our eyes receptors sensitivity they will be effectively even more efficient.

At present no super-efficient high output green LED exists. Researchers are trying to find a way to make super-efficient high output green LEDs. If they can then a new lighting device that will be as much of an improvement over compact fluorescent as compact fluorescent is over incandescent, will become available. Also, because of the small form factor of LED’s it will be possible to design these basically into any form factor.

Given this one can understand why it is desirable to find a way to make such high output super efficient green LEDs. Thus this article on caught my attention. It describes an approach one researcher is pursuing to utilize the piezoelectric affect but gives no details.

The piezoelectric effect is that if you stress certain crystalline materials, an electric charge is produced on the crystal. Conversely, if you apply an electric charge to the surface of the crystal, it will twist or deform. In short, it converts electricity into mechanical energy or vice versa. I fail to see how this has any application to LEDs. If someone out there is familiar with this research I would welcome enlightenment.