In this space, visitors are invited to post any comments, questions, or skeptical observations about Philo T. Farnsworth's contributions to the field of Nuclear Fusion research.
Subject: Re: Please set me straight
Date: Aug 14, 10:06 am
Poster: Richard Hull
On Aug 14, 10:06 am, Richard Hull wrote:
>The following quote was taken from:
>"Dr. Farnsworth reported that his team achieved a selfsustaining reaction on several occasions ... and could repeat the effect. He once invited his wife to watch a testrun of this feat. As power was applied to the Fusor the neutronreading meter achieved a steady threshold and there remained ... until a slight increment of power was applied. Then the needle went off the scale. Dr. Farnsworth cut the applied power ... but the needle remained in place for thirty seconds or more as the reaction continued. "
>Now I am by now means a nuclear physicist. But I do like physics and when I read the above quote I got all worked up. Self-sustainable fusion is something we all want and I given the impression that is what we had many years ago. Granted it may have been a reaction which only self-sustained for several seconds, but something is better than nothing.
>It seems to me that if this type of technology was here 50 years ago, why haven't we made any advances with it? Shouldn't this be one of the most funded areas?
Your hopes and excitement are understood. It is that same statement from "Distant Visions" which hooked me into in depth fusor investigation over 3 years ago!
I have, over the last year and a half, been interviewing every living fusor team member. I have learned a lot. No only have I followed the factual trail and heard the true tales of precisely what did and did not occur at ITT/Farnsworth between 1958 and 1968, but I have followed the trail up to the current spate of fusor activity on the professional front.
I feel that for the moment I am in a unique position relative to all others. for the following reasons.
1. The entire team of persons involved have never been interviewed, to the man, in depth by anyone but myself who was a qualified engineer and amateur experimenter/ scientist. This is very important, for only an engineer/scientist could ask the right technical questions. Furthermore I am somewhat of a humanist and feel that the personal stories of all the players are central to a number of deeper issues.
2. I am not out for glitz and tinsle as would be a reporter or novelist. I am out for every detail from the most insignificant technical minutia to the broiling personal stories of the players. naturally this requires time, and a fore knowledge of the fusor.
3. I reinterviewed all of the players in a personal, face-to-face manner in May of this year. I can armed with actual hands on experience with the fusor. This is a must to interview properly.
4. From discussions with everyone, I found that only one person ever interviewed all parties in depth and no one ever herad from him again. Some of the team members have had sporatic interviews with actual professional Phd types seeking to do fusor work. (sort of a brain pick).
5. In my cross interviews and correspondences with the current pro's, I was given to understand that the team members had nor given any information which these "big boys" felt was of real value!! The team members verified that they felt that the pros just shoved their thoughts aside. This is unfortunate and shows some of the limited understanding of the original effort by supposed pros.
Thus, we have spotty interviews of almost every one of many team members. They either were for a "quick rinse" overview for hype or journalistic pieces relating to the effort or to confirm preconceived notions that the fusor team which had 10 years on the job, really did not have anything to tell.
The foregoing was necessary to establish that I have the background and knowledge to answer it rather definitively..................
The answer is fusion may have occured for an instant, but in most team member minds,it didn't happen.
That is hardly definite and not encouraging. Sorry about the truth.....
I must step lightly here.....
100% of the team members noted that Phil often saw what he wanted to see and operated outside what they felt was a full gravity field on occasion. This in no way is meant to detract from his accomplishments, genius or abilities.
The little known fact is that Phil was not around the lab all that much in the day to day effort!!!
He would show up for important tests, be on hand for major problems, etc., but left most of the real hands-on to his super capable engineering team.
Most of his time was spent at home or in his upstairs office at his monroe-matic calculating, or with patent efforts, or with the Admiral (Furth) working on direction of the project and funding matters. In the final two years of the project Phil was gone! Retired... medically!!!
Phil was actually requested NOT to run key systems by the head engineer as he had damaged a couple of key items while trying to max out some of the inputs to a fusor. His enthusiasm and excitement sometimes got the better of him. Others told me they saw phil logging some numbers which were just not on the meters. He knew in his own mind what must occur and often made it so. They would often have to follow up on the work to log the correct values.
So what Phil said must be tempered by the observations of an engineering team which was active in the lab 5-6 days per week.
The story of the meter pegging is interesting because one of the team members noted that was the time phil came in and ruined a panel meter which had to be replaced next day. He over drove it! Fusion? probably not. The reason...?
Fred Haak, the vacuum expert team member, is the only believer that they did fusion even for an instant. He noted that fusors would often have mysterious holes burned in them during operation. Most all of the holes were coaxial to an ion gun's beam line. On two occassions, Fred remembers that as power was being lowered, the meters didn't fall in synchronization with the power wheel and would even boost slightly. On both occasions, the loud pop and hiss of a fusor burnthrough was heard. However, the holes were not coaxial with the ion beam lines in these cases. Fred maintains this was a micro time of self-sustaining reaction. The others can't seem to recall these specific instantances, but do remember a number of burn throughs. When Farnsworth supposedly saw fusion there was no tell-tale burnthrough.
There is much more yet to be told, but the upshot is that if fusion did happen in the ITT effort, it was physically undocumented, but suspected by one member (Haak) and touted as having happened by Farnsworth. All others claim that no verifiable fusion occurred, but they felt they were close.
This leaves matters tantalizingly hanging. As a scientist, I must opt for "no fusion" as it is not repeatable to this day, but then no effort matching that period's work has ever been undertaken to date.
As a human being with the knowledge of the team dumped in my head, I think they might have tickled the tail of the dragon.