A Change is Gonna Come

Get out your Sam Cook records, kids… A Change Is Gonna Come.

has been in business since 1998 – I think that's like several centuries
in Internet years. Why, when we started this, it was all hand-cranked,

In the 15 years since its inception, Fusor.net has
had three major incarnations. First there was the very simple BBS
operated under the aegis of my 90's-era Internet music business,
Songs.com. Then there was a brief interval when it was hosted by a
service called "Intranets." When that enterprise faded into the digital
sunset, we set up our own forums using a platform called "w-agora" –
which was fairly state of the art at the time (about 2002).

So this platform has served us well for at least a decade. But now it, too, is about to go the way of the digital dodo…

A number of factors have arisen in the past few months that dictate a change:

We discovered that users from Australia were having difficulty getting
consistent access to the site. Our host, Sitemason.com, was maintaining
a fairly high firewall in order to defend their servers against bots
from Asia, and that was causing problems for legitimate users on the
other side of the dateline;

2) The platform that we have been
operating on for the past decade has become quite antiquated and is no
longer supported by the developer. Sitemason has been precluded from
upgrading its services for other customers as long as the Fusor.net
boards were dependent on outdated circuitry;

3) Sitemason's own
business has evolved in such away that they are no longer able or wiling
to devote their limited resources to keeping the wheels of one site
rolling down the digital highway. I have done business with these
people since, oh, 1997 or thereabouts, and regard them as outstanding in
their field. It has always been a genuine pleasure to do business with
them. But their business has changed, and though they personally like
having a unique site like Fusor.net under their umbrella, the site is no
longer compatible with their business model and they've politely asked
us to find other hosting.

Accordingly, in the weeks ahead, two
major things are going to happen. One will be (hopefully) transparent,
and the other… well, not so much…

1) Fusor.net is going to move
to new servers. This in itself should/would not be disruptive, save for
the 24 hours or so it would take for the Domain Name Service (DNS)
change to propagate around the Internet. But while we're at it…

The operational face of the forums is going to change dramatically
with the conversion from w-agora to the now default standard discussion
platform, phpBB. The user interface of phpBB is very different from
what we have become accustomed to with w-agora; the simple one-line
threading of discussion threads will be transformed into a format that
will be unfamiliar at first and will probably be a source of some
consternation while we're getting used to it.

The Fusor.net front
page – i.e. the "blog" portion of the site, will also be converted,
from TypePad to WordPress, but that will be of less concern to the
regular users of the forum.

We may not know until we get there
the full extent of the disruption For example, we don't know yet if we
will be able to transfer existing user registrations — user ID and
password – from the old platform to the new one. We're still
researching all the particulars. I will use this space to keep users
apprised as we learn more.

The tentative date for the transition
is April 22-25. It is likely, that the forums will be semi-closed for
at least several days while all of the engineering is implemented. By
"semi-closed" I mean that the existing forum will remain in a a "read
only" state, and new postings will not be allowed until the site is
re-opened in its new format and on its new servers.

That's the news, now HERE'S THE POINT: We're going to need to raise some money to get this done.

has always been a free service and I have every intention of keeping it
that way. But we will need to raise something on the order of
$600-$800 to to implement all these changes. So it's time to pass the
virtual hat.

On the very front page of the site – https://fusor.net
– in the upper right corner, there is a link to my PayPal account. I'm
asking now for everybody who feels that they benefit from this site's
existence to go there now and pitch in whatever you can. Please make a
note on your submission that it is for "fusor.net" so I'll be able to
keep track of the contributions.

Things might be a bit chaotic
for a while, but I fully expect that we will survive any disruption.
Once we do, the site will be well positioned to flourish for another
decade or so.

And, hallelujah, by the end of that 10 years, practical fusion energy will only be another twenty years away!

OK, kids, please hurry over to the PayPal button now. Let's get this ball rolling…

(if you have anything to add to this discussion, please post your comments in the forums.)


Paul Schatzkin
aka The Perfesser
Founder of Fusor.net

Fusioneers Storm The Gates at MIT!



Richard Hull with FusioneerJeanette Brown at the 2012 HEAS gathering

So, you've heard of this place in Cambridge, Massachusetts called "MIT"? 


Massachusetts Intitute of Technology.

It's where all the really smart kids go to school.  The list of notable alumni is pretty impressive: Apollo 11 astronaucht Buzz Aldrin, current Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, renowned architect I.M. Pei, former UN Secretary General Kofi Anon, instant photo pioneer Edwin Land and current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – to name just a few that were easy to dig up with the Google.

Now add to the roster of notables who have matriculated into MIT not one… not two… but THREE members of the Fusor.net community.

BIG Congratulations to Will Jack, Jake Hecla and Jeanette Brown – who learned yesterday, March 14 (aka "Pi Day" – 3.14… get it?) that they have been accepted to the MIT class of 2017. 



Fusioneer and MIT student Will Jack

Now, nobody's saying that these kids got into MIT because they hang out at the Fusor.net website.  But we might be saying that some really sharp kids really do hang out on this site, and it can't hurt that they are conversant in such a rarefified subject as nuclear fusion when they show up for the admission interviews.


It is very gratifying to think that there will be a cohort of students
who show up at such a prestigious institution with practical experience
in fusion energy research.  If ever fusion is going to deliver a practical source us useable energy, it just might be because people like these young fusioneers show up at an institution like MIT with the mindset that "this CAN be done…"

So, congratulations are clearly in order – not only for our three new
MIT students, but for everybody who contributes to this site.

Nice work, everybody. This is a really great result. 


Jake Hecla, Jedi Fusioneer


At Last: Farnsworth is in the Hall of Fame!

(originally published at Farnovision.com


There's been an increase in traffic to the Farnovision site in the past week or so, which is quite possibly a result of the recent news that Philo T. Farnsworth – arguably the man who started it all – will be inducted next month into the Television Hall of Fame:

year’s honorees include Emmy®-winning actor/director/producer Ron
Howard, legendary sportscaster Al Michaels, iconic network executive
Leslie Moonves, acclaimed journalist Bob Schieffer and prolific
writer-producer Dick Wolf. Additionally, Philo T. Farnsworth, credited
with inventing all-electronic television transmission, will be inducted
posthumously. The inductees will be honored during a gala ceremony at
The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 11, 2013, which is sponsored by Audi®.
The Hall of Fame gala will be executive produced by noted television
producer Phil Gurin (Oh Sit!, Shark Tank, The Singing Bee).

Of course, whenever the name of Philo T. Farnsworth bumps up against the established interests in the industry his invention spawned, controversy looms in the wings. 

But this event will a reunion of sorts for a lot of people who have been carrying the Farnsworth torch for a long time  A lifetime in the case of all those Farnsworths, nearly four decades in the case of this writer. 

The occasion is also an opportunity to pass that torch on to a new generation (apologies to JFK).

It stands to be a joyous occaasion for all concerned, and while the interest of setting the record straight after decades of misinformation is never far from our priorities (even as the play continues to find new audiences), the universal hope is that we'll all be able to set the controversies aside at least long enough for everybody involved to enjoy this particular occasion.


Don’t Tell These Students That Fusion Is “Impossible”


The Braniac's version of "Friday Night LIghts"

I just love stories likes this:

Thanks to Carl
Greninger and a partnership with Federal Way Public Schools, a select
group of students are given the privilege of performing scientific
experiments with Greninger's fully functional IEC-9000 nuclear fusion

Greninger works as the IT operations program manager for
Microsoft by day and moonlights as a nuclear physics and science teacher
by night. The chance to work with the students who gather at his house
every Friday night is one Greninger relishes.

"I love it. I am totally about this. These are the best of
the best, and there isn't a bozo in the bunch," he said. "They are top
flight kids."

And they realize what a unique and valuable experience they're getting:

Auburn Riverside student Kayla Schuh says working with
Greninger's reactor and the related facilities is much more fun than
what her school would have her doing in science class.

"It's nice, because in school we don't get to do anything
fun," she said. "And here, we get to. Here we get to do actual science,
and in school, it's reading a book with awful pictures."

If fusion is ever going to be "figured out" – if it's ever going to live up to its promise of clean, safe, and abundant energy – then it's kids like these who are going to figure it out. 

Thanks to the ready accessibilty of the Fusor – and gentlemen like Carl Greninger – these kids are growing up in a world where fusion is not only possible but within reach. 

You just never know when inspiration will strike in an environment like that.


Brave Thinkers (?)

Screen Shot 2012-10-29 at 8.57.38 AMWhat do Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, New York City and Newark, NJ Mayors MIchael Bloomberg and Corey Booker, Russian punk-rock band Pussy Riot, and Fusioneer Taylor Wilson all have in common?

The most recent issue of The Atlantic Magazine has named them and 20 other luminaries in its annual listing of "Brave Thinkers."

As the magazine's website says, "Since 1857, The Atlantic has presented some of America's most
provocative thinkers, people with the bravery to challenge convention
and imagine the future."

Taylor is included in this year's listing as a "Nuclear Scientist:"

When he was 14, Wilson built a nuclear-fusion reactor. Then, a
bomb-sniffing device that impressed even the president. Now 18, the
prodigy is skipping college and using a $100,000 Thiel Fellowship to try
to crack the riddle of harnessing energy from nuclear fusion—a feat
that plenty consider impossible.

The article quotes Taylor:

These days, the scientific community accepts me. But getting to that
point was tremendously hard, and I think it required a big perception
shift. When people have dedicated their lives to something—and spent
eight years in college—they just expect that a kid wouldn’t be up to
doing it. But kids have a certain predisposition to do things
differently and see the world differently—and that’s helpful.

That's pretty much what I've always said: "If you don't know what can't be done, there's nothing to stop you from going ahead and doing it."

We'll see how much difference a whole $100k can make in Taylor's quest…

Geek Cred for Chad Ramey at Dragon-Con

ChadSeems our own Chad Ramey has been tapped as one of the must-see speaker/presenters at this year's Dragon-Con in Atlanta, held over the coming Labor Day weekend.

The event is described as "four days, debauchery the likes of which would put Sodom and
Gomorrah to shame takes over downtown Atlanta, as geeks from around the
world celebrate all things science fiction."

Chad will be making three appearances at this year's event:

On Saturday afternoon he'll be on the "Evil Geniuses for a Better
Tomorrow" panel (2:30 p.m., Capitol Ballroom, Sheraton), complete with a
nuclear reactor demo and liquid nitrogen ice cream. He'll also be at
Saturday night's Hacking 101 panel (7 p.m., Marriott A601-602) followed
by the "Fusion Reactors and Space Robots" discussion (8:30 p.m., Hanover
C-E, Hyatt) talking more about nuclear fusion and his internship with
NASA. Finally, on Sunday he'll take part in a no-holds-barred debate
over "Fission vs. Fusion" (7 p.m., 202 Hilton) showing his support for
the latter. "After my summer at NASA I've realized that fusion power
will be essential to future long-distance space travel and to possibly
build civilizations on the moon or Mars," Ramey says. "It's safer and
more controllable than fission, as well as up to 63 times more powerful —
two atoms that fuse release a great deal more energy than one that

Always nice to see somebody from these parts bridging the gap between science fiction and science fact in the future.

Another Fusioneer Earns Some “Ink”

BenbartlettThere's a nice write up about another one of the younger Fusor builders, Ben Bartlett, at thestate.com.  (Apparently it's a Columbia, South Carolina newspaper website.  The site doesn't actually identify itself as anything other than "South Carolina's Homepage."  OK, fine, if you say so…)  Here's an excerpt: 

Just how brightly does Ben’s star shine?

Just recently, the Lexington High School junior participated in several state and national science events, taking home top honors, including first place at the 50th National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium held in Bethesda, Md., in May. He’s South Carolina’s first grand winner in that competition.

A week later, at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh, Bartlett won the European Organization for Nuclear Research Award and placed fourth among the fair’s grand awards. At that same event, he also earned an all-expenses paid trip to tour the Hadron Particle Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator, outside Geneva, Switzerland. He leaves for that trip on Saturday.

“That’s the big award that all the kids in the physics competitions want to win and go to,” said Ben’s mother, Melissa Bartlett, laughing.

I guess as I type this, Ben is in Switzerland, exploring the giant hollow underground donut knowas as "Hadron." 

Watch you step, Ben, I hear that thing is pretty fragile… let us know if you find any Bosons…

(And thanks, Ben, for mentioning 'fusor.net' in the video that accompanies this article.)


Read more here: http://www.thestate.com/2012/06/10/2309526/17-year-old-physics-star-making.html#storylink=cpy

No April Fools: CBS Sunday Does TWO Stories on Fusion (sorta)

This past Sunday, April 1, 2012, CBS Sunday Morning ran not one, but TWO stories about the continuing quest for nuclear fusion.

The first  was a serious "hard news" (they have to call it that nowadays because so much of what passes for news is just fluff…) segment by David Pogue about the National Ignition Facility, the monolithic facility that hopes to achieve meaningful fusion by pounding a pellet of hydrogen isotopes with nearly TWO HUNDRED of the LARGEST LASER BEAMS ever constructed (sorry, I had to put all that in caps just to underscore how ludicrous it all seems).  Here, see for yourself:

(I apologize for the commercials that CBS is going to make you endure in order to see these segments.)

My favorite part in that report is where the guy says that, once they have achieved this near impossible technical achievement of aligning and simultaneously firing all these lasers, all they have to do to create a useful power source is "do it more often."  Like hundreds of times a MINUTE.  Which assertion is quickly followed by a critic's assertion that "we'll see pigs fly before we see ignition at NIF."

Contrast that "serious" report to this lighter 'human interest' story by roving reporter (and Charles Kurrault wannabe) Steve Hartman, which features Taylor Wilson, who learned much of what he knows about fusion from this very website:

OK, I give up.
I have posted the embed code
for this video THREE TIMES
and every time, CBS changes the video.
In the process I have been forced to watch
ads for Golman Sachs about ten times.
If you want to see this clip, visit CBS.com
and search for "Taylor Wilson."

This is how legacy media companies work the Internet.
No wonder they are going the way of the Dodo.

Unfortunately, the fusion angle in this story is glossed over pretty quickly while the reporting dotes on Taylor's obvious gifts and likens him to Mozart, who was composing his first symphonies at age 5.   Oooh… look at the cute kid and his affection for all things radioactive….

The second segment  falls short in a couple of aspects.  First, it makes it sound like Taylor 'figured out' fusion all by himself.  In describing Taylor as "the youngest peson earth to create fusion…" Steve Hartman ignores the deserving experimenters who have gone before him — starting with Philo T. Farnsworth.  You'd think that somebody who works in television would at least offer a nod to the guy who made his job possible.  But no….

The really lost opportunity falls somewhere between these two stories, and the way each treats its subject.  The first takes a serious look at how billions of mostly Federal tax dollars are being spent.  The second ignores that it is possible to produce fusion without spending that kind of money, and treats Taylor's work as a novelty because he's just a precocious kid.

The whole enterprise would have been better served if the second segment had approached its subject matter as seriously as the first.

PopSci.com on “The Boy Who Played With Fusion”

FusiongarageI don't particularly care to keep spotlighting Taylor Wilson at the expense of the other outstanding Fusioneers of all ages from all over the world who are experimenting with the fundamental forces of the universe in their basements and garages, but when one of our number garners a mult-page feature on one of the most popular science-related sites on the Internets, even-handed discretion has to take a back seat to running the flag up the pole and saluting.

The article is quite the profile of the Nuclear Prodigy as a Very Young Boy:

At 10, Taylor hung a periodic table of the elements in his room. Within a week he memorized all the atomic numbers, masses and melting points.

Isn't that what we all did when we were 10 years old?

After reading about "The Radioactive Boy Scout," Taylor started to dig in:

Soon Taylor was getting into more esoteric “naughties”—radium quack cures, depleted uranium, radio-luminescent materials—and collecting mysterious machines, such as the mass spectrometer given to him by a former astronaut in Houston. As visions of Chernobyl haunted his parents, Taylor tried to reassure them. “I’m the responsible radioactive boy scout,” he told them. “I know what I’m doing.”

The PopSci article doesn't even mention Fusor.net (what's up with that, anyway?) but I suspect the site was a factor in this encounter:

At that point, only 10 individuals had managed to build working fusion reactors. Taylor contacted one of them, Carl Willis, then a 26-year-old Ph.D. candidate living in Albuquerque, and the two hit it off. But Willis, like the other successful fusioneers, had an advanced degree and access to a high-tech lab and precision equipment. How could a middle-school kid living on the Texas/Arkansas border ever hope to make his own star?

Well, he gets in touch with Carl, and he drills through the vast knowledge base that has accumulated in the forums at Fusor.net, he starts rummaging around for the necessary parts, and he starts building. 

Next thing you know, he's created a star in a jar.  It's easy. 

Well, yeah, if you know what you're doing…

A Fusor in The White House

As the host of this site, it has always been my contention that one of its under-stated goals was to encourage a new generation of experimenters to investigate the possibilities of fusion. 

A lot of the veterans here are fairly certain that the Fusor will never be a meaningful source of useful energy on the planet, and they may well be right.  The experiments are interesting, they'll tell you,  and there's a lot valuable science to learn, but the likelihood of the Fusor or anything like it ever achieving the "breakeven" level required to supply useful power is nil.

Just don't tell that to the next generation of young scientists who are building Fusors. Kids like Taylor Wilson who recently demonstrated a fusor-based devise for President Barack Obama at the White House Science Fair:

According to the caption that appears beneath this photo on the White House blog, Taylor and the President are discussing  his technique "for detecting nuclear threats and … an environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and highly sensitive system capable of detecting small quantities of nuclear material." 

But look carefully at the object on the table in front of Taylor and the President, and you'll see, it is essentially the guts of a Farnsworth Fusor.  Yep, the Fusor has made it to the White House.  Let's hope the President fully grasped what he was seeing here.  Maybe he can squeeze a few research dollars into a future budget.

Maybe that will further encourage this new generation of experimenters to find more secrets that are locked inside the Fusor. 

Because the great asset of a new generation is that – as a young Cliff Gardner said of his glass blowing techniques back in the 1920s, "I didn't know it couldn't be done, so I just went ahead and did it… "

And maybe, some day, somebody like Taylor will build the Fusor that achieves breakeven, because they just don't know that it can't be done.