Public conversations

Got into a minor spat on a Youtube comments thread about Nuclear Fusion a few days ago. A couple of guys were repeating the “ITER will give us Fusion in four years” mantra so I pitched the alternative view to them. Needless to say, they just regurgitated figures culled from press releases at me, and thought that I was just trollishly trying to wind them up. Which wasn’t true, by the way. Life is too short, and I have one. A life that is.

Now what I am is a fan of cutting edge science. The real thing, not the output of breathlessly over optimistic (or pessimistic) press releases. I want us to have Nuclear powered space ships plying their way out to far flung solar systems at multiples of light speed, taking humanity away from the nursery of the dear blue Earth to a greater destiny amongst the stars. When I was a boy we were promised flying cars, unlimited electricity, better house building, space travel, and colonies on the Moon and Mars and I truly did want to believe in a better life from technology, but I don’t believe in Nuclear Fusion created by ITER for one really good reason; it’s based on an archaic Soviet Tokamak design.

ITER Tokamak cutaway diagramNow Tokamaks can produce nuclear fusion, this much is true, but because of one flaw that even a fool such as I can see, ITER or its spin offs will never deliver as a generator of fusion power. Why? Put simply, shockwaves. Let me enlarge. In the late 1990’s I was watching a BBC documentary / news item, and was enthusiastic, nay excited to hear, that the Joint European Torus lab near Oxford had actually achieved nuclear fusion. With a Tokamak. Wow. The documentary showed the pressurisation and heating of the plasma until some of it fused and went ‘bang!’ in a very controlled and genteel manner (Well, the JET is near Oxford.) Until quite a while later, I too believed (back in the early 2000’s) that we were but four short years away from cheap Fusion power for all and only the Eeevil coal, oil and gas interests were standing in the way. Then I came across the theory of Tokamak fusion and the plasma physics needed to make it work. While I was reading the various texts and diagrams, I recalled how the fusion detonation shown on the broadcast had propagated through the torus containment field and tried to reconcile the theory behind Tokamaks with what I’d seen. My heart immediately sank. From that moment on I knew Tokamaks would never be mankind’s wonder-producer of limitless energy for one simple reason; when the plasma fuses, part of it literally explodes, sending shockwaves through the superheated plasma torus. This disrupts the containment designed to feed fresh deuterium and tritium into the plasma to be pressurised and fused in a controlled manner. When the flows and containment are disrupted by the initial fusion shockwave and Electro-Magnetic Pulse generated by the detonation, further fusion cannot take place until the plasma has stabilised, so all you get is a single bang and that’s that. That’s without controlling all the ELM’s and like phenomena associated with Tokamak fusion devices. I’m not the only person who thinks like this. For a more academically sound source, try here.

If anyone thinks that the aforementioned makes me a believer in ‘Cold’ fusion, think again. ‘Cold’ fusion was a false positive generated by a faulty experimental model. End of. Which was a shame, but there you go. Same for the sonoluminesence ‘star in a jar’ concept. Would that it were not so, but as one of my old lecturers from my first year in Engineering college told me when I was trying to make a special radius cut with the wrong tool and vice setup on a vertical milling machine; “You can wish all you like, but that won’t make it work.” Like reaction drives (rockets) won’t even get us close to the speed of light. Sad but true.

“Okay-mister-know-it-all-brainbox” my critics might be tempted to say, “why don’t you give us your answer?” My answer is; I really don’t know. All I do know is that things that work have underlying processes. Life is a process. Put all the processes, digestion (Fuel), respiration (oxidiser), heatbeat (circulation) and electro-chemical signals (control) etcetera together and you get organic life. A four stroke internal combustion engine works because underlying its operation is a series of repeatable processes. Atomise and detonate a mixture of explosive gas in a closed chamber to drive a piston which in turn pushes a crankshaft translating the pressure of the fuel air mix explosion from a linear impulse into rotary motion. Inject, pressurise, detonate, exhaust, repeat. A process. Turbines work because superheated steam or hot gas is made to drive impeller blades around a central axis. That forms a continuous process. All Tokamak fusion can currently deliver is a single bang-in-a-bottle. Which can be a bit of a let down and not really viable as a sustainable generator of electricity. Like trying to have a gunpowder driven Internal Combustion Engine. Possible, but there are too many issues.

Like so many others I fear we will never see the bright future we were promised and so eagerly anticipated. Tokamaks are like electric cars and wind turbines, a technological dead end, pointless exercises in turd polishing. It’s hard not to feel more than a little cheated of a bright technological future that might have been. If only.

Now Lockheed Martin have an intriguing High Beta concept for hot fusion and based upon my (fairly limited) understanding, I also feel the Polywell concept has elements worthy of further investigation, but all the big ‘hot fusion’ money is going into ITER. Which is what happens when the purse strings are in the hands of politicians who really don’t understand the issues. Heavy sigh.

Of course I could be wrong, and the ITER team might just make their new version of the Tokamak work without all the plasma arcing and scouring issues. One day they might get all the fuel input and field containment equations right and their big dream will crackle into seemingly miraculous life and continuously produce a thousand times the energy it takes to fire up, but I don’t see that day coming any time soon. Which is disappointing, as despite my misgivings I’d dearly love the project to be a success. Such is life.

On a happier note, Youngest just got offered (and has accepted) a proper solicitors contract by the law practice she recently joined. Mrs S and I have been doing the dance of joy all morning. Eldest has also just bagged a primo job in Africa helping project manage a major mobile data comms infrastructure roll out. There is much smugness chez Sticker at present. Which is nice.

Absolutely average

Just for a lark, I took a quick time out and completed this fun Quiz on ‘How evil are you‘? Turns out that I am moderately Nefarious. Which is absolutely average as far as most people are concerned……Moderately nefarious As my reader will attest, this is hardly news. If I wasn’t, then I’m sure I wouldn’t have a full crew of Igors slaving over a hot dictionary upon my behalf. They don’t work for anyone who is less than at least modestly evil.

Me? I’ll settle for moderately nefarious. Sounds about right.

ne·far·i·ous
nəˈferēəs/
adjective
(typically of an action or activity) wicked or criminal.
“the nefarious activities of the organized-crime syndicates”
synonyms: wicked, evil, sinful, iniquitous, egregious, heinous, atrocious, vile, foul, abominable, odious, depraved, monstrous, fiendish, diabolical, unspeakable, despicable; villainous, criminal, corrupt, illegal, unlawful; dastardly
“the nefarious long-lost brother returned to steal Iris’s family jewels”

Proof? You want proof? Why should I give out any? No-one who is at the very least mildly wicked would even dream of confessing their evil deeds in public. Half the fun is watching others tie their petty moralities in knots trying to figure you out.

Favourite TV character; Raymond Reddington. So charmingly wicked.

Pass it on

Marthter William hath been complaining about our rethent lack of output here at the Bill Thticker Inthtitute of Free Thinking and Luncheth.  Even though our rankth hath been thinned by illneth, he’th told uth to “Potht thomething, anything, dammit.”  Tho here ith a little thomething for the revolutionary in your life.  Thome updated artwork for a truly honetht Che Guevara pothter. Jutht the theathonal gift for that chilly revolutionary thtudent bedthit.  Oh yeth, we’re pretty thure he hated gay people ath well.

Che Guevara

About the only thing we’re not thure about ith whether he hated the dithabled or not.  Thourthes?  Thtephan Molyneux theems to have the nathty bathtard down to a T.  Even Cathtro didn’t like him much.

Pity the Bolivianth could only thoot the evil thod onthe.

Sex and the thingle Igor

Thorry for the lakthity in pothting, but itth been hell down here. Igor hath caught a nathty computer virus, Igor is on a thtake out, and young Irog ith indithpothed with a bad cathe of dythlekthia. Dethpite all thethe perthonnel problemth, we at the Bill Thticker inthtitue for Irony and Thatire have notithed the reathonth behind all thethe nathty terrorith attacks and people lothing their headth to the Daeth. The prethident of Turkey hath been buying their oil, the Various Gulf thateth thent them money, and the United Thtateth ith thending them gunth.

Nonetheleth; over the weekend, the ladth fell to talking about that old perrennial, thex. You know, bonking, boinking, beatht with two backth, humping, shagging, fukcing and fornicathion, and how whole magathineth theem so fixthated by what ith, after all, a natural human functhion. Which ith, if one thinkth about it logically, ith rather like having magathineth dedicated to going to the toilet, although at thith point we recalled the experimetth of Great Uncle Igor, who briefly potheththed two penitheth. “Double the pleathure, double the fun.” Ath he wath moved to thay at the time. Great Aunt Igorina, a broad minded woman by all accountth, got thick of him fainting every time he and the were in the mood, tho he went back to jutht the one, tho they lived happily ever after.

Thith being the cathe, and after much discuthion, we thent young Igor out to find out what he could.

He found thith;

Which rather contradicth all thethe claimth of North American and European collegeth camputh ‘Rape’ culture, which ith, according to one of the nativeth ladieth, more of an African phenomenon. Thee her TED talk below.

Thith tendth to confirm Young Igorth experienth of Englith Colleges, where it wath not tho much ‘rape’ ath waking up in acute embarathment with the wrong Igorina after a heavy night on the embalming fluid. Thtorm, teacup. Ath marthter William ith wont to obtherve; “Nothing to see here folks. Move along.” Thame ath the whole ‘Thlutwalk’ protethth being originally bathed on one Ontario Politheman’th public pronounthement. It’th jutht activitth posing with their pet peeveth. Maybe if they had better thexth they’d be happier? Probably not.

The Marthter hath popped in on hith way home and pointed out that both hith thtepdaughterth went to two theparate Univerthities, and while they had thteady and not tho thteady boyfriendth during thothe timeth, neither young lady ever complained of anything untoward.   No young gentlemen of their acquaintanth ended up with their trthticleth for tonthilth either.  Ath would have happened if unwelcome advanceth had occurred.   Youngetht kickboxeth and Eldetht doeth Karate and Krav Maga tho we are told…….

On ‘Drive by’ commenting

There are people on various comment threads who accuse others of making ‘drive by’ comments. Asking a question or making a comment and not responding to any replies. Which is an online sin, if that is what it is, that I will honestly put my hands up to.

Truth of the matter is that I simply don’t have the time to respond (I have a life) or consider a given riposte to be either not worthy of my attention or even a worthless troll feeding exercise. Even with my reading speed (1200-1450 words per minute), there’s simply too much out there in jolly old Interwebland and that’s not even without delving into works like ‘Sapiens‘ which requires more careful word by word examination or my work related reading and college studies. I’m working my way towards a college degree, so shoot me.

Ergo, if I have not replied to any witty online epistles or lackwit attempts at badinage it’s because my plate of life is currently a little full, so don’t hold your breath. On the other hand, I could think of certain people I’d like to watch trying. To hold their breath, that is…… (Insert low key evil chuckle here)

In the meantime you’ll be stuck with the Igors holding the fort. So have fun and play nice.

Back again

I see Igor and pals have been keeping up their end of the bargain, bless their patchwork little hides. For my part I’m feeling a little down, the muscles of my sarcasm feel a little weak and overstressed. As kind of an antidote I’ve gone back to the best rhymer ever, Rudyard Kipling, for a little dark relief.

Back in pre Interweb days, I contracted a life threatening condition. No known cause, just bad luck. A form of cancer which required major surgery resulting in six months of constant pain despite heavy medication, the post surgical injuries still giving me the odd twinge twenty years on. All the time I was rendered immobile or feverish I picked up my dog eared paperback copy of ‘The complete works of Rudyard Kipling’ and repeatedly read it cover to cover, until it finally fell apart in my hands. Now I simply go to an online source and read quietly. I even have downloaded copies on my little Samsung for those odd moments.

To my mind he’s the greatest poet of all time. Not merely because his work was consistently good, but because he was a master of literary form. Technically he rarely fell below brilliant. Double and even triple rhyme schemes that scanned and bounced merrily along, unlike so many other poets I can think of. It was Kipling that taught me the value of learning the nuances of cadence, iambus, pentameter, hexameter and the Norse Saga form. Kipling who spoke simple truths, even though his meanings have been twisted over the years and unfairly deemed ‘right wing’, ‘racist’ and wallpapered over with unjustified dismissal. As far as those particular slurs are concerned he was a man of his time, and his works should be viewed more as historical and social documents. Not in terms of accuracy, because he was first and foremost a newspaperman, but containing a very strong flavour of how many people thought during the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. His work preaches a sort of pragmatic wisdom, which lays out the alternatives and says “If that’s what you want – this is the price.”

That has stuck with me ever since and seen me through some very tough times. I’ll leave you with my favourite lines from “The Mary Gloster

“The things I knew was proper you wouldn’t thank me to give,
And the things I knew was rotten you said was the way to live.”

Watch the dramatic reading in the video below.

The Case Against Facebook

Gweetingth onth again from the ladth in the lab here at the Bill Thticker Inthtitute of Thtating the bleeding Obviouth. Note that young Igor, who is in charge of blog potht titleth ith very modern in hith outlook and declineth to uth our traditional lithp. We’re very worried about him, ath some of uth think hith thtitching ith jutht a little too neat.

There are lotth of thtorieth in the mainthtream preth about thome poor thoul who hath had to thoot a family pet becauth it wath dangerouth to hith children or wath in too much pain, or thomeone who voithed an opinion that thomeone elth did not agree with on Fathebook. People who make thilly pronouncementth on twitter and end up being villified and thubject to one of thothe moronic Change.org campaignth.

We have wordth for people who bully otherth uthing change.org. Motht of thethe wordth are thort, pithy and Anglo-thaxon, otherth are Tranthylvanian in origin and do not tranthlate well from the original Magdyar dialect thyrillic. People who cry out for more government intervention on change.org are, ath far ath we can tell, not the tharpetht toolth in the vărtha. Tho emothional, tho completely free of logic. Not that thothe occathioning thuch outrageth are much better. If they had any thenth, they’d keep thuch thingth to themthelveth inthtead of pothting them for every hipthter and thimilar dunderhead to get all aereated about. Itth one thing to potht private methageth to family and fiendth, quite another to let every eathily outraged thlaphead into oneth private affairth. Ethpethially ath motht them to want to be offended. How bored they mutht be with their liveth.

Out in the real world thethe people are eathy to thpot. Totally fixated on their thmartphoneth (‘Thmart’ – hah!), even when crothing a buthy road. Hardly theeming aware of where they are going or what they are doing outthide of their tiny little screen-world. Thome even drive like that. Thome of uth think the Polithe thould have a thoot on thight polithy towardth texting driverth.

We Igorth do not uthe Fathebook, Twitter, Inthtagram or other thuch abominationth becauthe much of what we do ithn’t exactly thocial. Popping out to fetch a freth brain from a handy dithpenthary, for example, ithn’t exactly the thort of thing you potht in a public forum, ith it? Ethpethially after hourth. Not that we are prethently involved in any thuch projecth. It’th jutht a hypothetical thenario. Bethideth, there’th no call for that thort of research any more. Tho no, we will not be putting “Giving monthter life now – Amathing!” or tharing ‘thelfieth’ of ourthelveth and the marthter with frethly reanimated fleth, no matter how neat the thtitching. If we went in for that thort of thing, which we of courthe don’t. Well, apart from the odd nethethary tranthplant or three, but thatth another thtory.

Have a cigar

In the thpirit in which we with to continue, back here in the lab we have one critique of the above video; a true gentleman never, ever utheth a lighter to light hith cigar. The unburned lighter fuel coontaminateth the tobacco. But then the gentleman who made the above video ith American and ith not expected to know thith. As gentlemen to true gentlemen all know, lighting one’th thigar mutht be performed with a match or lighted taper / thpill after it hath been warmed to ambient room temperature. A candle can be uthed in a pinch, but a lighter? Herethy!

Justht goeth to thow you can’t believe everything you thee on YouTube. Including thith little exthpothition on whithkey drinking.

No true gentleman would ever dream of adulterating a thingle malt. No ithe, no water. Adulterathion ith for mountebankth and cadth. Young Marthter Bill would thtop whipping uth altogether if an Igor dared adulterate hith favourite tipple and that would never do.

We leave you with Mithter Pink and Mithter Floyd at their muthical betht.

Introducing

Greetingthe, young marsterth.  Jutht a quickie to thay hello on behalf of the Igorth here at the Bill Thticker Inthtitute for Taking the Pith. It ith our great pleathure to be given the ‘keyth to the Kingdom’ ath it were, to bring you the world from a particularly Igor perthpective.

Theeing ath Young Marthter Bill ith buggering off for a thort while, the ladth in the lab have found thith rethurrected old clathic.

Back thoon.

Regardth,
Igor

Admin changes

Just a quickie; as many regular readers (Either of you) have observed, the quantity of posts has been in decline for some time. Mostly because I’ve sarked most of I want to sarc about the apparent insanity of the world and how it is reported upon.

Now before the sackcloth and ashes come out, I’ve decided to hand over the day to day duties of posting to the Duty Igor at the Bill Sticker Institute of whatever it happens to be this week. I may chime in the odd contribution now and again, but the Igors (A smile, a quip and a little freelance brain surgery) will be taking over the main posting duties from now on. The boys have informally agreed to try and increase the humour and satirical quotient of this blog but keep the main thrust of editorial policy intact.

N.B. Igors are a little rough around the edges (It’s the stitching) and tend to lisp a lot, but you can trust them with your afterlife. Until of course the mob arrives with torches, then they’ll be away on their tootsies faster than you can blink. Well, that’s my problem and nobody else’s. Please return any wayward monsters you may find to your local branch of the S.P.C.M.E. (Society for the Protection and Care of Monstrous Entities)

TTFN

Bill

Expatriate expostulations from Canada; a.k.a. A Sarcastic man abroad trying to stay in the middle of the road without getting run over.

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