Hirsch versus Farnsworth

It may be difficult to separate "theory" from "application," but let''s see if this helps facilitate the discussion.
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Re: Hirsch versus Farnsworth

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Aug 05, 2003 5:33 pm

Answering some of Adam's questions.

Farnsworth was medically retired from ITT in 1966.

The project head then became Robert Hirsch.

The "fission business" was an ongoing thing in 1966 and was rather well developed and not just starting up. Though the bulk of fission plants were, indeed, built later. One of the big reasons Farnsworth was funded so long was that every now and then news of Farnsworth's fusion work was allowed to leak and ITT's stock always shot up like a rocket. The company liked that a lot.

Prior to 1964, the funding for the effort was meager and half hearted, but nonetheless, there. 1966 and 67 were the biggest budget years although I have been unable to obtain actual figures in writing. It was George Bain, alone, who had a rememberance of a 4 million dollar figure in the 66 budget that leaves any feeling at all for how much was spent. This might not sound like much, but back then it was a gang o' bucks. (Bain was the head of all project engineering and had a EE Masters degree) Right after Meeks, George Bain was the longest fusor team member in the effort (59-68).

The team actually had two really good years after Farnsworth was out. It was ITT that really wanted the effort shifted and paid for in future by the AEC. Why should they fund further work? They owned all the patents. Let the government pick up the tab. ITT would would just collect royalties. Alas, AEC turned it down for a number of reasons, mostly political. Bob Hirsch learned a cricial lesson here and this inducted him into the beltway politics of fusion. He was so eloquent in his fusion proposal with the fusor that within a year of his failed effort and shuting down of the Farnsworth effort, the AEC hired him! He was becoming a policticized scientist. He would ultimately get mild revenge in 4 years when he was placed in charge of Nixon's Thermonuclear program under the AEC and canceled a few fusion programs of those who refused him in 68. Regardless of some mis-steps while head of the ITER, he never lost his dream, even to this day of IEC fusion.

Farnsworth tried, abortively, to start PTFA, (Philo T. Farnsworth Associates), in Utah after 1967 and even dragged a few of his old fusor group out there with him in 68, only to abandon them and their families there having prodded them to join him and to leave ITT, pensions and steady work back in Fort Wayne. (ITT only fired Furth over the fusion debacle) All of the others, good technical people, were simply reassigned to other departments within the Fort Wayne facility. Only two of the original team would stay on at ITT and retire comfortably in the 1980's.

Farnsworth and Gene Meeks did have offices in Brigham Young University, but only Meeks actually performed useful work there as he and Dr. Andrew Gardner (department head) kept a fusor from the Fort Wayne period (loaned by ITT) working in the college until it was dropped from the program there in 1972.

So, Meeks was the first man in with Farnsworth in 1958 at his home on State Street in Fort Wayne where they did the earliest work at Farnsworth's personal expense all the way through the fully funded ITT effort and he was the "last man standing" at BYU when the fusor fires were dropped in 1972. This is why Gene is so critical to any full understanding of the work and effort regarding the fusor.

Sony did make a serious inquiry, but when Farnsworth couldn't obtain the patents from ITT and Sony saw the sad state of the abortive PTFA, they left the field.

Never a well man, Farnsworth never recovered from the 66 depression and died rather young and burned out in 1971. Pem, his wife, is still kickin'.

Books can never provide the full depth and breadth of the story and one could literally be written of the 58-72 period by itself, but instead of a scientific tale, would be more one of human drama and tragedy tangled in corporate and scientific politics.

Thus far, I feel and get the impression from all I have interviewed "to a man" that the "book writers" only interviewed them once and never really understood the scientific mission or had an interest in fusion at all. Paul was the exception, I feel, and that is why his book is the best, however, even Paul did not tell all. (blessedly so)

I was given a rather special status amoung the group as I was not just looking for a quick rinse. I could, of course, "talk shop" on the scientific, engineering and philosophical level. It didn't hurt that I had a working fusor, either. Therefore, I had a lot more told to me than a "one-shot interloper" looking to "do a book". All ofthe book writers focused sharply on the television period virtually to the exclusion of the fusion effort which many seemed to have relegated to a weak, half hearted effort, placing a rather negative stamp on the end of their magnum opus. Much of what I have been told has often been told in the strictest of confidence.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Hirsch versus Farnsworth

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Aug 05, 2003 6:27 pm

I am never surprised by new avenues of research offered up anywhere, at any time, by anyone. I am however often elated, gratified, stunned, amused, or saddened. (full range of human emotions)

As a long time doer and grizzled engineer, I have seen countless suggestions offered up by countless individuals in countless situations in real science, amateur science, real engineering situations, and even in life situations. (not just on this list) The number of those suggestions that seemed reasonable were very few. The number that the suggestors turned into functional hardware can be counted on my fingers and toes! The number of those few, inturn, that bore fruit I can count on one hand. So forgive the natural and honestly acquired pessimism where an extremely complex path is chosen at the zero funded amateur level.

The only thing the amateur has going for him in most cases in verve, the willingness to move and, on rare occassions, the willingness to do. (these are among the most potent items leading to success) However, having seen it all before played out a gang o' times, I calmly fold my hands and say "show me" making sure I stand well clear of the suggested effort and allow room for the flurry of activity to take place about me leaving me in the dust. The fact that I say "show me" often infuriates many, for they are the non-hackers, the dreamers, and a bluff called is often embarrassing. I have, unfortunately, embarrased far more times than having been embarrassed in these matters. Someone please embarass me by the "doing". If your effort fails, I will not scold or cry "I told you so", but will be proud that the nerve and guts drove an individual to DO something rather than hypothesize.

I have few suggestions as I have been there and see no direction leading to fusion on-the-large. I see the need for 10 orders of magnitude improvement with one or two order magnitude possibly viable solutions which if tried would still leave us 100 million times removed from the goal.

I sort of lead this effort on this list, again, not to do power ready fusion, but just to do fusion with a thought to seeing how it might be improved. Seeing the vast gulf of ten orders of magnitude, being a reasonable engineer and finally studying natural fusion, then projecting forward, I still wonder how it might be done... no longer, just better, but at all for the benefit of man.

I will never let the dream go, but will continue to offer opinions here and work as I chose when I do, allowing others to "do" if they even choose to do so in their own manner. I will continue to hold the stary-eyed hypothesizer in the same venue as my own criticisms............ as only so much wind over the decks.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

guest

Re: Hirsch versus Farnsworth

Post by guest » Tue Aug 05, 2003 6:40 pm

Amen brother, Amen.

Nathan

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Re: Hirsch versus Farnsworth

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Aug 05, 2003 6:52 pm

Greg asked about various incarnations of the fusor in the Farnsworth effort. There were about 5 fusors with multiple variants within each class. Most of the real information on these efforts is sketchy and some of it lost forever.

The Hirsch effort which ran parallel from 64 on created 3 machines, again with minor subvariants.

Meeks, near the end, had his own fusor which was a special gunned variant called the mark two prime and to hear him tell it, the most successful of the lot.

There were countless test fusors cobbled up from pipe, Conflat unions and the like that were never designed to fuse, but test geometries and other ideas where plasmas were studied.

The very first fusor was a crude glass vacuum tube designed by Cyril Day (ITT's premiere tube designer) at Farnsworth's request. According to Bain, it never worked and was a totally abortive effort. The first funded fusor, and two others after it up to 1962, were all semi-bell jar fusors, electron multipactors, and never produced any neutrons, AMAZINGLY, and are what you see in the classic images of the team and or Farnsworth huddled around them. (opening page to the fusor.net forums). Somehow, they came to the conclusion, I am unsure, as are all the team members, who made the suggestion to go to the ion beam system in the 62-63 time frame. In the big warp core Fusor mark II. They got some neutrons, but not many. Subsequent variants did do better, but not as good as anything the Hirsch/Meeks effort produced. The variants were so thick and fast that not one single team member remembers all the numbers, all the variants or often even the results!!! the real notes were all retained by ITT in corporate held lab books. Such are the fading memories of even the best team members.

The cliques within the effort were almost never in total communication with results from fellow team members in the next room!! As sad state.

I have hand written notes, but they are not in my office and they are of what this or that person "thought" a certain photo of a fusor did or performed to. One member had a stroke and as he recovered, his memory got better, but many things were gone forever. Another member recently had a stroke and still can't talk in a normal manner. Fortunately, I had a couple of ten hour personal interviews with him and many, hour long, Q & A sessions via the phone before his recent misfortune.

I probably have not satisfied your curiousity, but did want to explain the muddled nature of the fusor ID system of which there appears to have been virtually NONE! Things happened fast there and a lot of variants were unnumbered or forgotten with the passage of time.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Hirsch versus Farnsworth

Post by kbonin » Tue Aug 05, 2003 7:34 pm

I have to toss a comment into the mix on modern fusor work - in following the conversations on this board (while my own project takes shape on the desk next to me, plasma soon!), I'm wondering how many modern projects are occurring that just aren't discussed?

Most people I know working in physics fields are patent junkies. Everybody dreams of figuring out that "trick" to acheive breakeven, and so keeps most of their ideas to themselves less they lose their ability to acheive said patents and the bags of money that would alledgedly follow such a discovery.

I wonder how many interesting ideas are being played with RIGHT NOW, likely by people reading this board (HI!) that will never talk about it?

And as a side note, to any such individuals - remember two things:
1) There are very cheap ways to get out of making royalty payments, "lead" poisining being the cheapest.
2) the modern patent office practice of allowing perpetually ammended vague filings means that any really important discovery will be disclosed as infringing on any one of dozens of Fortune 500 blanket patents - take a look at Cold Fusion filings to see whats in store.

I'm just glad theres an open forum for all this, so that maybe us amatures can someday figure out how to do more that scratch at the demo level. But in the mean time, its a fun hobby, and I'm getting to show my kids what the scientific method is really all about. :)

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Re: Hirsch versus Farnsworth

Post by Richard Hull » Tue Aug 05, 2003 8:16 pm

Kerry raises an interesting and well understood phenomenon.

I call these folks the "Lone Wolf" basement bombers. They are often lurkers on such lists as this. They may even post. We have had two such folks that I am aware of here in the past.

In general, they work totally alone. They have just discovered the secret of the ages. They have a working model and either have a patent or are securing one. They would just like to share this fact with the populace sans details.

How many are here and lurking? Unknown.........Don't care.

Do they have the key? Highly unlikely.

Are they stealing our ideas or harvesting the brain power of the list for free? You bet. We are givin' it away. Right? They can have it.

There are subvariants to the above. Some are looking for investors (possible bunko artists) others just accolades, but the song is the same.

I am aware of a lot of these folks in the past having been dipped and stripped in the new energy world. Thus far, I am sorry to say, not one single thing these lone wolf guys came up with is on the market or ever reached the market. Very telling, very telling, indeed.

Oh, they were doers alright, just a bit paranoid and, always, self-deluded either through simple, innocent, ignorance or poor mental health. But, to the man, they had those patents and no one was going to cheat them out of a thing and they weren't tellin' nobody nothin'. "You just wait and see this baby go when it hits the market!"

Quote:

"I'm still a' waitin" (Yosimite Sam -Warner Bros. Cartoon)


Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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Re: Hirsch versus Farnsworth

Post by jst » Tue Aug 26, 2003 5:04 pm

Being in the software business, I think I can tell you the trend is away from the patent office anyway. Long before a patent application is ever processed anything new must be out in the market and old hat before patent/copyright ever apply in any meaningful way if ever; and before the competition copies the concept and applies the necessary twist to dodge copyrights.

We live in a world which will be increasingly like the StarTrek replicator. Almost everything that wasn't "canned" a very long time ago is a DIY project. "Patterns" for new things will be shared like recipes are swapped for hot chili... nobody does it exactly the same, but we all willingly borrow the parts...

When the first guy here announces he has broken even, we will all "borrow his pattern" build our own ( no doubt improved design... ) and off we go. I doubt if anyone will ever actually bother to mass market this stuff.

BTW, Never forget what happened to E. Fermi's patent applications...

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Re: Hirsch versus Farnsworth

Post by Richard Hull » Mon Apr 04, 2005 2:13 pm

Mike, There is no proof extant that any Farnsowrth device even approached breakeven. In general, no fusion device has ever been there or even close to there on a usable, continuous energy basis. I have been bold enough in these forums to predict that there never will be.

There are many reasons to be here in these forums. They range from hoping to achieve the breakeven barrier or even self-sustaining fusion reaction at the top of the heap all the way down to just hanging out intellectually on fusion discussions near the bottom.

In between, there are folks making a cool looking demo device for a science fair, Folks contributing to the theory of fusion, folks musing over improvements, folks working at physically making improvements and folk who just want to be able to say that they have actually done fusion with their own hands. All of these folks are welcome and make for an interesting mix.

You have noted that we seem to be more interested in ease of construction than making a fusion device that is better or near breakeven. This perception is correct if you are talking about the "doers" and the "builders". This is because most of these folks are rather pragmatic and poor. These two qualities puts a rather sharp point on fusion work for many "doers". Such folks have limited funds and want to do fusion. They are pragmatic enough to see just how far off real efficient fusion is and to realize that breakeven is a dream that their purse can't even hope for. As such, they opt to build a real fusion device that does fusion as efficiently as their money will allow. This demands a hunt, not necessarily for the best fuel or process, but for a warranted success based on a budget.

There are, of course, constant discussions around the theory of fusion, how it might be done better and about the requirements for a viable power generating fusion system. These are just that... discussions. If power ready fusion is ever possible, it will most likely not be done by an amateur and not on a table top for the price of a set of new golf clubs as the current group of amateur fusors are.

So, you see, we are a varied bunch to say the least. The "doers", for the most part, are cash limited to workable, interesting fusion devices that prove that fusion can be done inexpensively, and by amateur hands. Others, not able or interested in construction, tend work in the area of theory and mental advancement of fusion concepts.

All of the foregoing doesn't obviate the chance of blind luck or stumbling onto something unexpected or unappreciated making a breakthrough. There is always room and hope enough for that in all our hearts. It is just that the best heads can't rely totally on that in the day to day work of fusion.

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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