Tuesday saw the official agreement between a consortium of countries to construct a fully functional fusion reactor, at a cost of 12.8 billion dollars, or thereabouts. The project is called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, ITER. It is indeed a huge undertaking, and we could end up with nothing to show for it, but on the other hand it would be a miniscule price to pay if we were to get the scheme off the ground. The promise of an abundant source of energy that is (supposedly) less polluting and safer to run than fission and does not add to our upcoming woes caused by climate change is too tantalizing not to pursue.
In case you’re wondering, the image to the right (click for larger) is a schematic representation of the 500MW reactor. It is of the classic “Tokamak” type, in which there is a torus (doughnut) shaped region where the plasma will be magnetically contained, at a temperature of 100 million K. To learn more about fusion, you can go to the article from the UKAEA here, and the article on ITER here at their website. From the latter, you can learn about the specific scientific objectives of ITER:
Continue reading ‘Fusion In Our Future?’
Every other time I go to the movies, there is a trailer for yet another sports movie which has exactly the same plot as all the others. Every time I sit there stunned and open-mouthed after the trailer and have a little internal rant (sparing my companion(s)), wonder to myself about what it is about the national psyche that needs this same simplistic story quite so often, and wonder why nobody else seems to notice the phenomenon. It is also noticable that it is one of the rites of passage of a famous male Hollywood star (even really good ones) to play the grizzled coach of the no-hope team….. blah blah blah…. why is that?
Well, to my delight, this morning the programme Morning Edition on NPR played Continue reading ‘The Sports Movie Script’
Ah! The Doo Dah Parade! I do love it so. Why?
First of all, they began with a fly-over by three planes with pleasant coloured smoke streaming out the back.
Big deal, you say. Fair enough, but compare this to how the Rose Parade (which runs along a similar route six weeks later) starts… with a fly-by of a Stealth Bomber flanked by two Stealth Fighters. People cheered. I first saw this in 2004 when the USA had already reached out with this power to invade Iraq, and we were all depressed about the recent re-election of the leaders who committed that crime. [Later correction: Of course, I got my date wrong... The election was to come later that year... the depressed feeling was just from the ongoing Iraq situation.] My reaction as the Stealths flew overhead? Wanting to clasp my hands over my ears and run screaming – just like the orcs and trolls of Sauron’s army do whenever the chief symbols of his air power (the winged Nazgul led by the Witch-King of Angmar) fly over the battlefield. You wield your terrible weapons and scare the crap out of your enemy and your friends – what does that say about you? So this is why I like that the Doo Dah parade starts with those less in-your-face planes.
I digress, losing half my audience (all seven of you) by making a Lord of the Rings reference. Should have chosen Homer. Oh well. So, remembering that the Doo Dah is the antidote to the cookie-cutter perfection of your typical Rose-type parade or Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, have a look at some things that caught my eye.
Continue reading ‘Some Things I Like About The Doo Dah Parade, I’