New Feature: The Best of Fusor.Net
#BOFN – Runaway! (Or… Not?)

runaway

When we discussed the future of Fusor.net at the HEAS gathering at Richard Hull’s home back in October, one of the recurring themes was: there is a wealth of information buried beneath the detritus of daily exchanges that one typically finds in the forums.

This site has been in existence more or less for nearly 20 years. The first iteration – the “songs.com” bbs – was so long ago – before the dreaded Y2K – that the posts don’t show the year.  But I’m pretty sure it was 1998.

Since then, knowledgeable people of all stripes have come and gone – or come and stayed – and deposited here a veritable treasure trove of information about the design, construction, and operation of the Farnsworth Fusor (or, more precisely, “Hirsch/Meeks Variation” of the Farnsworth Fusor).

So it is no wonder that much of the valuable information stored here can be found in posts that date back a decade or more.  The challenge now is to effectively mine those resources so the most valuable nuggets can be brought to the surface for the benefit of newcomers and veterans alike.

After exchanging some recent messages with Site Admin (and fusion veteran) Frank Sanns, I think we’ve come up with one way to periodically drill down and see what lies beneath.

Starting now, and hopefully once or twice a week for the foreseeable future, we’re going to post a series of “The Best of Fusor.Net.”

The key to the idea is the search engine that lives at the top of every page of the forums.  You can find out just about anything that’s ever been posted that way.  For example, search for “Gene Meeks”  (co-inventor of the fusor we build here) and you’ll find 60 entries over 10 pages that go back as far as 2001 – 14 years!

So clearly, there’s a ton of valuable stuff lying beneath the surface of this site. Let’s see what we can do to bring some of it closer to the surface.

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The "Mark 2 / Mod 2" fusor, one of the models that was operated in "the pit" in Fort Wayne. Photo from a scrapbook kept by Steve Blaising.

The “Mark 2 / Mod 2″ fusor, one of the models that was operated in “the pit” in Fort Wayne. Photo from a scrapbook kept by Steve Blaising.

For the first entry in the “Best of…” sweepstakes, we visit the subject of “runaway fusors.”

Last week, Frank and I got in to an e-mail exchange about the “runaway fusion” events that have been reported to have occurred in the Farnsworth fusion laboratories in Fort Wayne, Indiana in the mid 1960s.   I think he was referring to an event that I described on page 232 of my Farnsworth bio, “The Boy Who Invented Television”

…. engineer Fred Haak described an occasion when he, George Bain, and an- other engineer named Jack Fisher were preparing the Fusor for a metered run that would be conducted the next day. There was no instrumentation on the Fusor during the setup. As was often the practice, the workers were putting the Fusor through its paces to make sure its systems were all functioning when, according to Fred Haak, the Fusor in the pit “just lit up and went crazy.” George Bain killed the power immediately but the Fusor did not shut down—it actually continued operating, as an increasingly bright light emanated from the pit. After this spontaneous operation had continued for at least 30 seconds—perhaps a minute—a “pop and a hiss” indicated that the stainless steel reactor vessel had been breached, releasing its vacuum, at which point the reaction finally ceased and the Fusor cooled down.

It’s Frank’s contention that such an event could not have happened, and to make his case he sent me a link to a thread entitled “Can A Fusor Explode?”

The thread was prompted by a question that Steve Sesselman – another Fusor.net veteran (who, incidentally, pretty much holds down the Aussie contingent of the community) posted back in 2005 – more than ten years ago.   What follows is an interesting discussion of some of the inner workings of the fusor, and possibly the belying of some of the legends that surround the Farnsworth labs in the 60s.

See for yourself,  it’s just a couple of pages of posts, and it’s just a sample of some of the material that would go unseen if we don’t make an effort to pull it out.

So “watch this space” (actually, this category) for more such posts in the weeks ahead.

  • Timothy Raney

    Paul….it was good seeing you again in October. Your editorials are ‘spot on.’ The search feature works fine….much more efficient to use first before asking the same question others have asked repeatedly. The “best of fusor.net” as a periodic feature is a good idea. Thanks for all your hard work. All the Best, Tim..bald engineer guy with glasses.