back to article While USA is distracted by its President's antics, China is busy breaking another fusion record

Chinese boffins say they have smashed yet another world fusion record using their EAST contraption – aka the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak. The experimental fusion system managed to maintain a stable plasma state for 101.2 seconds, with the temperature peaking at 50,000,000 K (90,000,000°F, 50,000,000°C), we're …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    let me guess...

    It's still 20 years away.

    Like it's been since the late 1950s.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: let me guess...

      Hmmm, well apart from the failed efforts back in the 50s, 60s, the progress has been ahead of track since the 1970s. The JET project in Culham in the UK exceeded its research objectives, and that has now been expanded into the ITER project. There is a plan, but it is quite a long plan, but for the past 40ish years it's been running according to (or better than) plan. More or less.

      ITER won't produce power, but it is aiming to be able to sustain a plasma. Once that's achieved, fusion power is a certainty, not a hope.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: let me guess...

      "It's still 20 years away."

      yeah, it's the focus on Tokomak and lack of actual incentive for SUCCESS that's dragging the 'research' on indefinitely.

      I'm not a 'cold fusion' activist or anything. I just think that for hot fusion, TOKOMAK isn't a very good design [unless you're doing research].

      What you need is a method of confinement that doesn't involve large expensive superconducting magnets. You also need a method of excitation that doesn't involve a boatload of lasers. And you need a method of generating electrical power out of the fusion reaction. NONE of these are practical in a TOKOMAK design.

      A design that MIGHT work has been explored by the U.S. Navy from what I understand. The first practical nuclear reactors were created by the U.S. Navy for submarines and ships. It goes without saying that classified programs building fusion reactors for submarines and ships is a likely path to commercial fusion reactors making electrons for your lights and appliances.

      Here's a 2014 media article about a potential candidate: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/science-news/low-cost-fusion-project-steps-out-shadows-looks-money-n130661

      It talks about 3 basic designs, the TOKOMAK (magnetic confinement), the 'pellet' reactor (inertial confinement), and this new 'wiffle ball' design aka 'Polywell' (which as I understand tries to use the characteristics of the plasma rather than fighting against it).

      I'm not an insider, so maybe some of the details are outside of my knowledge base. I just remember reading about the Navy wanting fusion reactors, and a new type of design [probalby this one] was the most interesting and practical. Seems to me they're giving up a bit early, though, or they found something better...

      But yeah, a new TOKOMAK record, that's like saying "look at the cool new vacuum tube we designed". Sure, a LOT of people might be interested, but not so much a breakthrough any more.

      /me points out that to use fusion energy, you must capture it, and most of it is gamma radiation. If you can't put your reactor inside of a tank of water in order to boil that water and make steam, it won't be practical. And it has to produce at least 5 times as much energy as you put into it in order to make useful power, due to the ~20% thermal efficiency of a typical steam plant. Water is the most likely PRACTICAL absorber of gamma and neutron radiation energies. A few feet of water should absorb >90% of the gamma and neutron energy from fusion, easily. And so you see what the construction is going to have to look like, and how impractical the 'under vacuum' super-conducting magnet TOKOMAK would be in trying to get ANY kind of useful power out of it.

      1. Mark 110 Silver badge

        Re: let me guess...

        God, I hate those downvoters who don't tell us why. Whats wrong with Bombastics post? Seems like a well thought through and presented argument to me.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. handleoclast Silver badge

          Re: let me guess...

          Whats wrong with Bombastics post?

          My guess is that what those downvoters found wrong with Bob's post is that Bob wrote it. Nothing more than that. It is "argument from no authority" in its worst form.

          Argument from authority and from no authority can sometimes be justified on Bayesian grounds: "X is an expert in the field and is usually right so when X says it [s]he's probably right." More often it is fallacious: "I think the sun shines out of Donald Trump's arse so when he says this he's absolutely right. Bigly."

          I think most of those downvotes came from people who intensely disagree with Bob's ordinary posts (as do I) so they downvoted this particular post out of laziness (or even spite) instead of evaluating it for itself.

          Looked like a reasonable argument to me, too. So I followed the link. It too, seemed reasonable. And Bob made the effort to restate it in his own words rather than regurgitate it verbatim, so he put some thought into it. It certainly didn't merit a downvote, in my opinion.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: let me guess...

        "due to the ~20% thermal efficiency of a typical steam plant"

        That figure *should* be about 40%, for a well designed, modern steam turbine set up. Of course, combined cycle gas turbine / steam turbine plants can get over 50%, but then you've got to source the gas, which is why we aren't exclusively using those.

        yours etc.

        Mrs Trellis, Frustrated Engineer of Tunbridge Wells.

        1. tedleaf

          Re: let me guess...

          Have they moved Tunbridge wells to north Wales then ?

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: let me guess...

        "I'm not a 'cold fusion' activist or anything. I just think that for hot fusion, TOKOMAK isn't a very good design [unless you're doing research]."

        But that's the point, fusion is still at the research phase and will be for some time. I'm also suspicious that you're even bringing up cold fusion and referring to hot fusion. The odd use of all-caps for key words is also a subtle alarm bell.

        The first "practical" nuclear reactor being built by the US Navy depends on your definition of practical.

        If the US Navy really thought that other design you reference had legs, they would have funded it by now.

      4. tony2heads

        @bombastic

        As you seem to have some knowledge: why have the polywell designs I have seen on based on a cube, rather than on a dodecahedron or an icosahedron?

      5. batfink

        Re: let me guess...

        Why all the downvotes? If you don't like what Bob's saying, then reply with some reasoned argument.

        If you are just downvoting Bob because of his political views (which pesonally I don't agree with either, but that's beside the point), then downvoting a post in a topic about nuclear fusion is just plain childish. Speak up, or get a grip.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: let me guess...

          Why all the downvotes? If you don't like what Bob's saying, then reply with some reasoned argument.

          Because it's full of nonsense?

          yeah, it's the focus on Tokomak and lack of actual incentive for SUCCESS that's dragging the 'research' on indefinitely.

          You can't see what's wrong with that sentence?! Try this.

          BB- Hey, scientists. What are you doing?

          Scientist- Well, you know when you detonate an atom bomb, and then use the nuclear fission to form a fusion reaction? (eg, nuclear explosion) We're creating nuclear fusion in the lab without using an atom bomb for ignition. And we're keeping the little ball of fusion lit, and containing it so it doesn't blow up the lab despite the fact it destroys anything it touches, and either melts or just destroys any shielding material we use in short order. Yes, that's difficult stuff. But hey, we're pushing the boundaries of what science can actually do. Oh, and we're trying to extract more electricity from the ball of plasma than we use to generate, it which is the actual goal of our research.

          BB- A lack of actual incentive for SUCCESS is dragging your 'research' on indefinitely!

          Scientist- !?!???

          If I put it that way, does THAT explain the downvotes?

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: let me guess...

        Trumpastic Bob is a nuclear scientist?!?!?!?!?!

      7. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: let me guess...

        "And it has to produce at least 5 times as much energy as you put into it in order to make useful power, due to the ~20% thermal efficiency of a typical steam plant"

        That's "put into it" at the actual sharp end. Inefficiencies along the feedin process (lasers etc) come into play too, such that to achieve breakeven (electrical power out for electrical power in) it's more likely to require at least 100-fold amplification in the actual fusion unit, more likely 1000-fold.

        Even after fusion gets to the point where it's a practical reality it's likely to take 25 years to become commercially viable. We need to get moving on LFTRs in the meantime.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: let me guess...

      With the latest results the tocamac designs look like ~ 10.

      Realistically, 50-es did not have the material technology, magnet design and most importantly magnet control technology to do fusion. While the principle has not changed, we got there on the last two within the last 10 years. So 10 lapsed, 10 more to go for the tokamak designs.

      At that point we run into another wonderful non-proliferation issue. Fusion reactors produce fast electrons, which can be used in a classic breeder design (in fact they are too fast - you have to slow them down a bit somehow). Anyone in a possession of a working tokamak fusion coil can potentially stamp out Plutonium by the ton as a byproduct.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        Re: let me guess...

        However ideally co-sited with fission reactors as the excess neutrons can be absorbed by radioactive waste, generating heat, then steam for electricity. The waste is converted to less radioactive materials. So the main fusion reactor doesn't have to have net output if paired with a fission reactor.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          "The waste is converted to less radioactive materials. "

          If you want to do that a molten salt reactor, configured as a "burner" could do it, without needing any more breakthroughs in plasma physics to do so.

      2. Chemist

        Re: let me guess...

        "Fusion reactors produce fast electrons, which can be used in a classic breeder design (in fact they are too fast - you have to slow them down a bit somehow)"

        I think you intended to type neutrons

    4. bsdnazz

      Re: let me guess...

      The joke used to be that for the last 40 years fusion has been 40 years away.

      If the joke has changed to 20 years I'd call that progress!

    5. streaky Silver badge

      Re: let me guess...

      It's still 20 years away

      Nope. UK project to get power to grid by 2030 looks to have reasonable science/engineering, if it can keep funding going. There's also SPARK/ARC at MIT and various other projects with sub-20 year timelines to at least demonstration reactor timelines.

      Not that we shouldn't be building ITER, at least it has less chance of failure if everything else goes wrong (unlikely).

      Maybe if news didn't keep talking about plasma experiments as fusion experiments *cough*'reg*cough* we might progress somewhere. Not that plasma experiments aren't useful but the language is all wrong and confuse the state of the art.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: let me guess...

        While we're discussing the future of fusion, freely admitting I don't really have what it takes assessing fusion-related claims on merit, I'm still quite partial towards the Lawrenceville Plasma Physics lab - they may not be all that well known but they seem to have achieved remarkable milestones ahead of most everyone else including the large players, in a peer-reviewed fashion no less (I'd appreciate this not devolving into questioning why they haven't been flooded with cash yet if so while acknowledging this as an... interesting question).

        At any rate, nothing I've read or heard in this field makes me feel like "all we need is to sit down and design a practical plant because the proof of concept is over there happily generating more energy than it consumes" - and if that's accurate, I'm sharply questioning the arbitrary nature of claims of "10 years" or "20 years" of what may equally well turn out to be 50 or 100 or 1000 years away, considering we still don't know how to make it generate more energy than we put into it.

        So let's stop this "science will advance _this_ much in _that_ many years" bullshit handwaving which never failed to fail so far about everything it ever got projected on - when we have the finalized design and project plans for a practical generating plant that will take 10 years to build and the bulldozers broke ground, THEN we can say that fusion power is merely 15 years away. Your grandchildren might even witness it...

        1. streaky Silver badge

          Re: let me guess...

          nothing I've read or heard in this field makes me feel like "all we need is to sit down and design a practical plant because the proof of concept is over there happily generating more energy than it consumes"

          Designs for practical plants already exist. Some of them are a shot in the semi-dark with fairly solid science and reasoning behind them and are just engineering and funding issues (SPARC/ARC/TE's design for example) then others are more long term this will work it's just going to cost a lot of money and take all the countries on the planet to effect them and there's still engineering challenges that aren't explicitly money related (ITER into DEMO into commercial reactors).

          It's not as if we're in a situation like with the Higgs Boson where nobody knew what would happen when LHC got up to full power. It's more like LHC when you knew that once you build it you could start smashing particles together and make data. When ITER is turned on it *will* make energy, it will make more energy than it consumes. The real question is will TE/SPARC et al short circuit ITER's timeline by doing what ITER sets out to do at smaller scale, or will those projects run face first into either funding or science brick walls with trying to make them work at smaller scale. The physics says no, it's more what the engineering says and if we make new physics - they're still wildly important even if they find new physics.

          Also, Re: silly arguments.

          Fusion reactors aren't self-sustaining, if you don't keep pushing fuel or energy into them they stop, that's why they're inherently safe - they are not bombs. The main problem with reactors is the preferred fuels ping off neutrons when they fuse (which is how they will create external energy) which can damage certain materials (good job we have fission energy and related nuclear materials science) and creating containment pressure (one of the big historical engineering problems with reactors which is improving every day hence why new smaller reactor designs are appearing).

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "There's also SPARK/ARC at MIT "

        There's also a similar project in the UK.

        The difference between these and ITER is they are c$300m, not $10Bn+

        They are also the closest to the existing tokomak knowledge base.

        On that basis they would seem to be the sensible projects to fund.

        Provided you really want to create cheap electricity and not just go on making an endless supply of plasma physics PhD's.

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

    and giving both Kelvin & Centigrade is really not needed. I might understand if this was Fox News or The Sun ... but I most El Reg readers are reasonably bright, I doubt that anyone would not grok Kelvin.

    1. vir

      Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

      Technically, it's 49999726.8 C but what's a few hundred degrees between friends?

      1. Andy the ex-Brit
        Facepalm

        Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

        The Fahrenheit conversions are ridiculous. He wisely dropped the 0.33 degrees at the end, but better to just put 90,000,000 and 27,000,000. No way was the temperature measured with seven or eight digits of precision, and then reported as 50,000,000 K.

        1. I3N
          Pint

          Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

          At least they dropped the decimal point ... the world of precision was so much safer with slide rules ... then came those damn calculators with their fancy 7-segment displays ...

        2. Paul

          Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

          Imperial units, so many to love!

          http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01p8bs2

      2. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

        > Technically, it's 49999726.8 C

        Wow. That's nearing 5 MegaHiltons.

        1. NBCanuck

          Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

          "Wow. That's nearing 5 MegaHiltons."

          @ Adam 1

          I think the correct term should be GigaHiltons. Your unit overstates the true value of her diminishing hotness.

          1. eldakka Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

            @NBCanuck

            I think the correct term should be GigaHiltons. Your unit overstates the true value of her diminishing hotness.
            Maybe a "diminishing hotness factor" term needs to be added that adjusts the value in real terms, like when referring to money when they adjust for inflation.

            5 megahiltons (I), where I indicates adjusting for Inflation.

            Therefore when the factor is omitted, it refers to an "ideal" or "classical" Hilton state as opposed to the current "Inflated" Hilton state.

            Working out the actual adjustment term would require intensive theoretical research and a lot of practical experimentation, involving lots of beer.

    2. Stuart Halliday

      Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

      The Register has to sadly support our old American neighbours. Still living in the 19th Century.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

        "The Register has to sadly support our old American neighbours. Still living in the 19th Century."

        yeah, aren't those measurements based on the body parts of a British Monarch?

        reminds me of the measurements of the space shuttle's boosters were based on the size of a train car, which is based on the standard scale railway, which was based on the ruts caused by horse-drawn carts [they kept all of the same sizes when they made the standard rails], which were based on the Roman chariots [no need to break wheels because of well worn ruts in a road, if they're all the same width], which were based on the width of a horse's ass.

        So the design for the boosters on a space shuttle were based, in part, on the width of a horse's ass.

        1. frank ly Silver badge

          Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit#History

      2. rdhood

        Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

        "The Register has to sadly support our old American neighbours. "

        While that statement might make sense for any random person from the U.S., any American who is reading this article will generally be very well acquainted with different temperature and measurement systems. In fact, most of us wish the U.S. would just change so that we wouldn't have to learn every formula in two systems.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

      I still think in BTU's, lb-F, and Farenheit for thermal stuff. And absolute is deg Rankine. They work. It's what I learned back in the 80's. Or I suppose I could do KCal, Neutons, and Celcius. And Kelvin. It's just a conversion, really.

      1. Snow Hill Island

        Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

        "Or I suppose I could do KCal, Ne(w)tons, and Celcius"

        Make life easier for yourself, use Joules instead of KCal. And if you're working with steam tables, bare in mind you may well be using Kelvin rather than Celcius, or you might get some rather surprising answers...

        1. sitta_europea

          Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

          Crikey! I'd forgotten I even had any steam tables!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        WTF?

        Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

        "They work. It's what I learned back in the 80's."

        What school did you go to, Hogwarts?

        I went to school in the 70's and we only learned those crazy modern measurements. I only have a rough understanding of olde worlde measurements to convert things for my parents.

        I couldn't even tell you how many yards are in a mile, how many something or others are in a pint or what the boiling point of water is in Fahrenheit.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

        "I still think in BTU's, lb-F, and Farenheit for thermal stuff. And absolute is deg Rankine. They work. It's what I learned back in the 80's. Or I suppose I could do KCal, Neutons, and Celcius. And Kelvin. It's just a conversion, really."

        It's Newtons. There -- converted that for you.

        (Also, just to be perfectly pedantic about it: it would be Celsius, not Celcius, and it would be KJ, not Kcal or KCal or whatever ...)

        I learned this back in the '70s.

      4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

        "It's what I learned back in the 80's."

        Really? Which 80s? Seriously, the idea that someone could have received a technical education in non-SI units at any point in the last century is pretty sad.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

          Bob Is American.

          From: https://hbr.org/2009/10/a-metric-of-americas-competiti:

          Inevitably, students ask me why Americans continue to use the old system. Most are surprised to learn that even the English have largely given up on it. That’s when I walk us over to the classroom map and ask the group how many nations other than the U.S. still officially use ounces and inches. Guesses are usually in the neighborhood of 10 or 15. When I reveal that the answer is two, they immediately assume that Canada and Australia are the holdouts. The correct answers, though, are Liberia and Myanmar, which we then proceed to find on the map. Perplexed, students cock their heads and ask again, this time with concern, why in the world Americans continue to use the old system.

          1. ptmmac

            Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

            Good old fashioned arrogance is the primary reason.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

            Even Myanmar is switching to metric now....

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

      Can't we have a reg unit, maybe a "Tamale"

      1. eldakka Silver badge

        Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

        Can't we have a reg unit, maybe a "Tamale"

        There already is a reg unit for temperature, the Hilton.

        50M℃ ~= 5M°H

        That's a lot of Hilton's!

        EDIT

        Dammit, Adam 1 got in first while I was working out how to insert ℃ and °H symbols!

        1. I3N
          Trollface

          Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

          Hn not °H -

          https://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/28/additional_reg_standards/

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: Who still uses farenheight for things like this ?

            @I3N

            Hn not °H -

            I concede Hn, however The Reg online standards converter lists it as ° Hilton, not just Hilton.

            So one of the pages is an error, NFI which one...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worse..

    if the Chinese can crack it, they'll be in possession of the must-have technology of this century

    If the Chinese can crack it they will be absolutely flooded with every possible malware the US can throw at it because that's the one thing that could conceivably nuke the dollar as reserve currency, the main reason they can keep borrowing money without any real worry.

    At the moment, countries need dollars for energy purchases, but if the Chinese manage to get fusion going it's pretty much game over for that scam - there is a risk the US economy would collapse.

    That said, it's going to take a few more years.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Worse..

      If the Chinese can crack it they will be absolutely flooded with every possible malware the US can throw at it...

      Sensationalist clap trap.

      China and the USA (and Russia too) are members of the ITER project. China is helping build it, just like everyone else. Even the Iranians are talking of joining in. As member nations, they all have equal access to the intellectual property developed by the project. A lot of the other projects are in support of the joint ITER effort, as is the norm with large, international, collaborative scientific research projects.

      ITER is too important to be cocked up by politicians. One can only hope that Trump doesn't decide that America is too important to mix it with the Old Foes.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Worse..

        Oh? Is EAST part of ITER? Or something separate so that China doesn't have to share?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Worse..

        As member nations, they all have equal access to the intellectual property developed by the project.

        1. The announcement is not from ITER, it is from their own where they share a nice 3 finger salute contribution.

        2. If you have not tried to work with Chinese on IPR and in International standards organizations, what you get from them is a nice 3 finger salute contribution in the form of outright perversion, subversion and sabotage.

        3. If you are not convinced by 2, I suggest you have some dig around on the subject of Chinese and open source. There you always consistently share a 3 finger salute contribution.

        Chinese and true collaboration in one sentence is the mother of all oxymorons. It is culturally foreign for them to collaborate with "the lesser nations" and "foreign devils" - aka all of us.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Worse..

          If you have not tried to work with Chinese on IPR and in International standards organizations, what you get from them is a nice 3 finger salute contribution in the form of outright perversion, subversion and sabotage.

          You mean just like you get from the French, the Americans, the Russians, Microsoft, etc.?

          1. Ramazan
            Coffee/keyboard

            Re: just like you get from the French, the Americans, the Russians, Microsoft, etc.?

            "As member nations, they all have equal access to the shared pool of 3 finger salutes developed by the project".

        2. sitta_europea

          Re: Worse..

          You forgot to mention that they perpetrate industrial scale fraud in more or less any walk of life.

        3. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: Worse..

          1. The announcement is not from ITER, it is from their own where they share a nice 3 finger salute contribution.

          2. If you have not tried to work with Chinese on IPR and in International standards organizations, what you get from them is a nice 3 finger salute contribution in the form of outright perversion, subversion and sabotage.

          3. If you are not convinced by 2, I suggest you have some dig around on the subject of Chinese and open source. There you always consistently share a 3 finger salute contribution.

          OK, but why do their computers keep needing rebooting?

        4. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ITER is too important to be cocked up by politicians.

        I admire your faith.

      4. tfb Silver badge

        Re: Worse..

        A lot of things are too important to be cocked up by politicians. Unfortunately that doesn't stop them doing just that.

      5. IT Poser

        Re: Worse..

        bazza,

        I was ready to click upvote until I got to, "ITER is too important to be cocked up by politicians." Perhaps things are different where you live, but, around here the more important something is the more likely it is to be cocked up by politicians.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Worse..

      Don't worry, Trump will answer by opening more coal mines, and building the biggest steam alternative engine the world has ever seen!

      1. 0laf Silver badge

        Re: Worse..

        But it'll be the biggest, most powerful and beautiful steam engine

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Worse..

        as has MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center in the US, although that facility has now shut down for lack of funds.

        ......

        However, if the Chinese can crack it, they'll be in possession of the must-have technology of this century. ®"

        But.... tax cuts for the rich!

    3. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Worse..

      Fusion ain't needed for a worse outcome.

      If the Chinese keep producing Solar panels at the same rate of descending cost all the the oil backed currencies are f*cked any way. Especially since HVDC transmission lines are booming.

      They will literally be so cheap that they will make sense anywhere south of Edinburgh. Huge brute forcing of the power problem but feasible.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Worse..

        If the Chinese keep producing Solar panels at the same rate of descending cost all the the oil backed currencies are f*cked any way. Especially since HVDC transmission lines are booming.

        Actually, the US is already doing that to itself. California apparently has a serious problem in that it produces too much solar power and can't get rid of it. The result is that prices AROUND California have dropped to the point of going negative (I kid you not) but (and this is even harder to believe) the Californians THEMSELVES still have to pay high rates as they have been fixed to repay the investment in solar plants.

        It has become a weird, weird country..

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Worse..

          According to the article, it's not solar power specifically but the California grid in general. It's way overbuilt, even accounting for surge capacity. This is more a matter of political nepotism at work here: a human factor that's notoriously hard to control. And there's no mention of selling off the excess electricity to neighboring states. Perhaps the infrastructure isn't there or regulations make this too problematic. Point is, the article isn't quite saying what you're saying.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Worse..

          California's problem is the same as South Australia's.

          Once you exceed 3-4% intermittent sources (wind and solar), your grid becomes extremely fragile when combined with "Must take" rules and feedin tarriff rates which are stupidly high

          At this level of penetration it's time to start killing off the the hidden subsidies - solar/wind operators don't have to pay for the backing generator capacity that's required to handle no wind/no sun - by requiring them to start using systems to smooth output such that they can be baseload sources.

          IE: Elon's battery banks should be paid for by the renewables suppliers, NOT by the grid operators. else it's even more hidden subsidy going into their pockets.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Worse..

        "They will literally be so cheap that they will make sense anywhere south of Edinburgh. Huge brute forcing of the power problem but feasible."

        People keep claiming this, but moving to a low carbon future needs to take into account that the maximum you can reasonably achieve by carpetting the countryside in windmills and solar panels is to replace existing power generation capacity (solar and wind are still less than the UK's nuclear output).

        That overlooks that electricity only accounts for 30-40% of carbon emissions, so once you factor that in, you have a large shortfall to make up given that replacing heating, transportation, industrial processes etc with electrically-sourced energy is going to need 6-8 times more electricity than is currently produced (and then there's the issue of developing countries, which will need to ramp their power production up even faster and with greater multipliers)

        The only viable long-term methods are nuclear - fusion or fission - and right now commercially viable fusion is still "somewhere over the horizon", so we'd better get our ducks in order. Nuclear is quite safe but molten salt systems pretty much eliminate ALL the nuclear accident causes we've seen in the last 70 years whilst also making enough heat that you don't need to site next to waterways (derating in hot weather to preserve river life/vulnerabilities to tsunamis) whilst still getting increased thermal efficiency, so not getting them commercialised and rolled out is rather silly.

        From a biosphere point of view (NOT sea level rises) we can't afford to keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere until fusion is ready. Geological history shows CO2 spikes go nicely with oceanic

        anoxic events and mass extinctions. As an animal with a particularly oxygen-hungry lifestyle we're rather high on the "first against the wall" list if that happens.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Worse..

      The US dollar has been the international trading currency of choice for decades because it's stable (Gold backing went away a long time ago) and the use of it drives the USA Hegemony (in the same way that use of the franc and pound did in past times. The days of the UK being a major world power went away the day that international trade stopped being done in Sterling.)

      It's been postulated that one of the driving forces behind GulfWar2 was that Saddam was trading oil in Euros and that tolerating expanding international trade using the currency was seen by US interests as a more important threat than any "weapons of mass destruction" could possibly be.

  4. JJKing Bronze badge
    Flame

    At that temp, marshmallows will melt!

    Why would MIT get funds to get their toy up and running when there is all that coal which is going to make America grate (sic), or so says the orange idiot.

    China is going to end up with all the cool new gadgets unless if funding is not adequately provided for scientific research. I don't like that thought.

    1. nilfs2
      Holmes

      Re: At that temp, marshmallows will melt!

      'merkins are on a involution process, soon they will loose control of their thumbs, and will go back to climbing trees and growing fur.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "merkins are on a involution process, soon they will loose control of their thumbs, "

        Absolute nonsense.

        Most of them don't believe in evolution. *

        *I don't know that for a fact but I'm sure it's true, so I guess that's an alternative "fact."

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Most of them don't believe in evolution.

          Don't worry, evolution believes in them!

      2. Alister Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: At that temp, marshmallows will melt!

        'merkins are on a involution process, soon they will loose control of their thumbs, and will go back to climbing trees and growing fur.

        Maybe they'll regress to spelling lose correctly - one can but hope.

    2. Blank Reg

      Re: At that temp, marshmallows will melt!

      As Trump actively works to accelerate the stupidifcation of the US, it may not be long before there just aren't enough people left with sufficient intelligence to operate any power plant using technology more advanced than that found in the Victorian era.

      That's how he'll bring coal back.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: At that temp, marshmallows will melt!

        As Trump actively works to accelerate the stupidifcation of the US, it may not be long before there just aren't enough people left with sufficient intelligence to operate any power plant using technology more advanced than that found in the Victorian era.

        Nope. The stupidificatoin has been going on since the late 60's/early 70's time frame and run by the NEA (teacher's union). They've been changing history books, dumbing down the maths, and wiped out critical thinking. Hell, some schools that I know of hired art teachers to teach math and science. Where we are now is the result of this.

      2. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: At that temp, marshmallows will melt!

        Trump is pro-fusion!

        By increasing the Density of the US population, soon a mass will accumulate that will collapse into a bright point of fusion energy, as seen in a recent Spiderman documentary.

        1. tedleaf

          Re: At that temp, marshmallows will melt!

          That could be an interesting watch,all those tanks all vanishing up one arsehole and then just a little foop noise and their all gone.

          Wonderful !!

    3. Haku

      Re: At that temp, marshmallows will melt!

      Can you imagine the reaction of US residents if their next president decided to follow suit with France's ban on the sale of vehicles that are soley powered by petrol or diesel by 2040?

      I'd probably end up in hospital suffering from an acute laughing fit.

  5. MD Rackham

    Huh. A new place advertising "Chinese Fusion" just opened down the street. I guess it's not at all what I thought it was.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Spicey hot take(out)!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's a whole new level of heartburn.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why doesn't the article mention that the USA is also a member of ITER? Selective journalism trying to make a cheap political point? I've got no problems with scoring points on Trump bashing; it is of course deeply fashionable to take the piss out of the current incumbent of the White House, he provides so many wonderful opportunities for doing just that. But has he actually done anything to change the USA's status within the ITER project? If he has, it's not mentioned in this article. Surely Iain Thomson can do better than that?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just look at the headline:

      "While USA is distracted by its President's antics..."

      That's quite biased. I'm not seeing any such distraction here, except among the leftists who are being driven to it.

      Punk'd by Trump again and again, and they never catch on. It's that missing sense of humour I guess.

      1. IT Poser

        Big John,

        Downvoted because the US media is under the impression that every headline must contain the T word. I literally spend a lot more time filtering out unless crap from news feeds.

        Note: I am merely explaining my downvote.

      2. mrobaer
        Stop

        "While USA is distracted by its President's antics..."

        I think only the media (and those who rely on it) are the only ones who are distracted by our President's antics. The rest of us are just going about our merry way. What our Presidents do (or don't do) seldom affects the people's way of life.

  7. Zmodem
    1. Darren Sandford

      First plasma that your link references is not the same thing as a stable plasma for over 100 seconds described by this article.

      1. Zmodem

        it should'nt take too long, the uk's reactor is only a few months old and can hook up a quantum computer to control the magnet's and the amount of friction, for stable plasma for a day, you would need the sensor readings on 0 nano second, not next year every normal CPU cycle

        1. Zmodem

          i can't remember how long plasma lives for, but it has a real short lifetime, using a normal CPU would make a fusion reactor, maybe 3x less efficient, then using as much fibre as possible and a quantum computer when trying to control a whole chamber of plasma

          1. Zmodem

            "Clock Time

            Clock time (CT) is the period of the clock that synchronizes the circuits in a processor. It is the reciprocal of the clock frequency.

            For example, a 1 GHz processor has a cycle time of 1.0 ns and a 4 GHz processor has a cycle time of 0.25 ns. "

            https://www.d.umn.edu/~gshute/arch/performance-equation.xhtml

            the clock time also depends on how many transistors the CPU has and the finfet size, and then normal circuit boards add extra nano seconds as does copper wires, as does the operating system being used, put it all together and you have windows that can't cope with USB ports with a polling rate faster then 1000mhz/1ms latency

  8. ma1010 Silver badge
    Alert

    It may have competition

    Check out this site. This is not "cold fusion," but promises essentially unlimited, clean power.

    The guy behind the company has been working since the early 90's on this, and the problems they are fighting are engineering ones, "real" problems, much like the fusion people. Some physicists reject his theories, but it seems that, at least to some extent, they are gaining acceptance. I'm not enough of a physicist to have a real opinion, but it sure looks intriguing to me. If he's right, we should see a working prototype this year, and see commercial units sometime in 2018. Time will tell.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "some physicists reject his theories"

      'round about all them do, actually.

      Especially once a phrase like "The SunCell® that was invented to harness the new power source catalytically converts hydrogen directly into dark matter form called Hydrino® releasing brilliant high-energy light which is down-converted in energy to facilitate the production of electricity using commercially-available concentrator photovoltaic cells" spunks all over their woo detectors. These Hydrinos [ooops, nearly forgot the ® symbol - key part of any physics discovery is the trademark] are either a remarkable state of hydrogen whose unmistakable signature has somehow escaped the notice of every other researcher on this most studied of atoms across 150 years. Or it's a scam.

      1. Nolveys Silver badge

        Re: "some physicists reject his theories"

        catalytically converts hydrogen directly into dark matter

        I've never heard of cats converting hydrogen into dark matter, but they can do it with cat food so who knows?

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: "some physicists reject his theories"

        Hydrinos are still alive?

        I remember when it was just claimed that the electrons improbably dropped down an orbital to yield "compacter hydrogen" and energy. 20 years ago or so?

        So the story changed to "conversion to dark matter".

    2. harmjschoonhoven
      Happy

      Re: It may have competition

      It has competition, but not from brilliantlightpower and their ilks who do not know their QM.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It may have competition

      BLP article on Wikipedia was a good read ;) What a scam!

    4. Vic

      Re: It may have competition

      the problems they are fighting are engineering ones, "real" problems

      They certainly are real problems. Like "How do we overcome reality?"

      I'm not enough of a physicist to have a real opinion

      I am. He's full of shit.

      Vic.

    5. batfink

      Re: It may have competition

      Excellent. OF COURSE it runs on molten silver...

    6. Doctor Evil

      Re: It may have competition

      Characteristic of a scam: "This taps into a previously unknown/unrecognized state of matter to produced virtually unlimited amounts of energy which will completely replace all other forms of energy production in short order. Our tiny company, utilizing this unique knowledge/insight which no one else possesses, will be completing a commercial-scale demonstration with only private funding in [unrealistically short time-frame]."

      Characteristic of genuine research: "Well, this is interesting. We're looking into it. Other groups are working along similar lines."

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    50,000,000C, so about 8,333,333.33 Kevin Bacons

  10. JJKing Bronze badge
    WTF?

    Crazy ideas?

    some physicists reject his theories"

    'round about all them do, actually.

    It wasn't that long ago that many learned people thought if you sailed across the ocean then you would fall off the edge. Flying and space travel was the ideas of crazy people and if you went faster that 30mph in a train then you would be ripped to pieces from the forces involved. I would imagine telling the learned people that you were going to make a magical plasma that was 50,000,000°C would have also been met with disbelief.

    If people like this don't try new things then nothing will happen. I don't know if this SunCell works or not (though it does sound a tad uh, crazy like perpetual motion) but surely if they are charlatans, they will get found out especially with all the "doubting donalds" in the US.

    You can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but you fool me - you can't get fooled again.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Crazy ideas?

      "It wasn't that long ago that many learned people thought if you sailed across the ocean then you would fall off the edge. Flying and space travel was the ideas of crazy people and if you went faster that 30mph in a train then you would be ripped to pieces from the forces involved."

      The Greeks knew the world was around 2,000 years ago AND could prove it with math and physics.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Crazy ideas?

        They called Galileo crazy, they called Einstein crazy, but they also called Bozo the clown crazy

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Crazy ideas?

          "They called Galileo crazy, they called Einstein crazy, but they also called Bozo the clown crazy"

          So much for two-party politics. Who knew the Third candidate always gets in...

      2. Chemist

        Re: Crazy ideas?

        "The Greeks knew the world was around 2,000 years ago AND could prove it with math and physics."

        And, as I've pointed out before, anyone seeing ships disappear slowly over the horizon and reappear or who has climbed a mountain and seen that mountains on adjacent islands do the same could draw the same conclusions.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Crazy ideas?

          "The Greeks knew the world was around 2,000 years ago AND could prove it with math and physics."

          Of course they did, they were living on it after all. :P

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Crazy ideas?

            "Of course they did, they were living on it after all. :P"

            Blame my phone's autocorrect, OK? And since I was on the mobile site, I couldn't edit.

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Crazy ideas?

      30mph - bullshit from coaching companies to try to stifle railways

    3. Farnet

      Re: Crazy ideas?

      Nope this is a modern set of thinking from crazy religious loons...

      I joined a flat earth group on facebook (for a laugh) to see if it was just a complete piss take..... but there were people absolutely serious in thinking the earth is flat..... in the 21st century!?!? I unsubscribed after less than a week, as I like an argument as much a the next person, but these guys are just batshit crazy, there is no debating with them, they think its a world wide conspiracy which includes all pilots, Politians, NASA etc. just why?

      "The Flat Earth Society's most recent world model is that humanity lives on a disc, with the North Pole at its center and a 150-foot (45 m) high wall of ice, Antarctica, at the outer edge.[22] The resulting map resembles the symbol of the United Nations, which Johnson used as evidence for his position.[23] In this model, the Sun and Moon are each 32 miles (52 km) in diameter.[24]

      Flat Earth Society recruited members by speaking against the U.S. government and all its agencies, particularly NASA. Much of the society's literature in its early days focused on interpreting the Bible to mean that the Earth is flat, although they did try to offer scientific explanations and evidence.[21]"

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Flat Earth

        I could give credence to this line of argument if it were based upon the thought model of the universe being the 'skin' of an ever expanding balloon.

        So really that argument would be that the Earth were flat if the commonly perceived 3 dimensions were, in fact, only two :)

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Flat Earth

          "So really that argument would be that the Earth were flat if the commonly perceived 3 dimensions were, in fact, only two :)"

          Which two, then, given we can physically measure three?

      2. handleoclast Silver badge

        Re: Flat Earth

        You're right, flat earthers are crazy. Even crazier than young earth creationists (although some are insane enough to be both).

        The Flat Earth Society's most recent world model

        This has been extensively, thoroughly and hilariously debunked by youtube user CoolHardLogic here.

        His other videos are good, too.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Flat Earth

          The trouble is that true Flat Earthers are irrational by nature. And you know what they say about trying to win an argument with an irrational person.

    4. tfb Silver badge

      Re: Crazy ideas?

      They have been found out. So have the people who claim that aliens shot JFK, Homeopathy works or the US government was behind the WTC attacks: this does not stop people believing these things, or people making money by exploiting believers.

      1. MT Field

        Re: Crazy ideas?

        But homeopathy does work. It is an effective placebo. It can also be proven that it is more effective when delivered with increasing levels of ritual and mumbo-jumbo. And it is very safe.

        Of course it only works as well as a placebo, as long as that placebo is administered with similarly convincing levels of ritual and mumbo-jumbo. Oh yes.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Crazy ideas?

          "And it is very safe."

          Except for the side effects of things - like death from untreated sepsis or cancer.

          But at least you won't suffer any medication side-effects.

    5. Vic

      Re: Crazy ideas?

      It wasn't that long ago that many learned people thought if you sailed across the ocean then you would fall off the edge

      [Citation Needed} - because humans have been sailing over the horizon for millennia.

      Vic.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Crazy ideas?

        Even in Columbus' time people were very well aware that the earth was round.

        Columbus was crazy not because he thought it was a sphere, but because he thought it was around 1/2 the size everyone else did. He was expecting to find Asia only a few hundred miles off the european coast and came dangerously close to mutiny as the voyage went on far longer than his sailors expected. (He also falsified the ship's log to give sailors the idea they'd sailed a far shorter distance than they really had.)

        (And this is all quite apart from the havoc he wreaked in the Americas)

  11. I3N
    Pint

    "... we're told." ... Consider the source ...

    Whoever told you this would flunk that examine in high school chemistry covering temperature scales.

    At least wasn't reported as °K ...

    Would like to know who took the SAT or the gaokao for them ....

    Professor Farnsworth: It would take decades of work, by thousands of scientists, in a particle accelerator powered by DUMP TRUCKS OF FLAMING GRANT MONEY! [emphasis mine]

  12. Alan Bourke

    That reminds me

    I must look up what's happening with the Rossi E-CAT contraption these days, for a laugh.

    1. Thoguht Silver badge

      Re: That reminds me

      What's happening is that Rossi persuaded financial heavyweight Neil Woodford to invest a reported £32m of his customers' money in it. I know you don't make money without taking risks, but this seems too big a risk to be taking.

      The general view though seems to be that although it is indeed a tremendous risk, it only constitutes 0.5% of the fund that holds this investment, and if it did turn out actually to work then it would make trillions so it's worth a flutter.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: That reminds me

        IOW, it's a lottery side bet. Like putting aside a buck now and then when the jackpot gets big. If it doesn't work, oh well, no lunch. But if it hits, it hits BIG. The reward way outweighs the risk in this case because the risk really isn't that great.

  13. adam 40
    Unhappy

    Plowed?

    Grrrr. If I wanted to see things like that I'd be on the nature.com website instead...

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