Saturday, October 08, 2005

1 week in and. . . fusion

I've been here for 1 week. Today I'm very tired becasue I've been social the last 2 nights (my studies have suffered a bit, but after this blog entry, I'm gonna study). Last night I went out with Kate, a nice woman from Columbia (university). She took me to a meeting of the columbia club of Spain. at the meeting, Tomas Pederson, a physics professor, gave a talk about sustainable energy and atomic fusion, not fission, fusion.

He described how fusion creates far more energy with less hazardous waste than fission . Though solar energy and alternative fuels are useful for now, and should continue to be used, they are not capable of creating the quantity of energy that the world needs long term. Of course the big challenge in the field of fusion is actually getting molecules to fuse and create additional energy. It all works on paper, but it is hard to create conditions for it to work in reality. Fusion requires that molecues be heated up to 100,000 degrees C, and then they must be forced together! Also, fusion cannot occur in the 3 forms of matter we are most familiar with (liquid, solid or gas) becasue of the necessary heat, so it occurs in plasma.

Anyway (thanks for bearing with my confused explanation), Pederson build a machine that looks like a big twisted donut (for the plasma to be contained in), with 4 large intelinked magnet circles (to create the magnetic fields). The magnetic fields force the plasma molecules together and the donut shape contains the plasma. Though Pederson has not yet succeeded in the creation of energy, there is one example of succesful fusion energy. In 1996, at a program called SET in England, the scientists made fusion happen and created 16 megawatts of power, enough to light a medium city for 1 second. However, sadly it took 55 megawatts of power to create the conditions for the fusion to occor, so therefore, nobody has yet created net every from fusion.

However, there is now an international project, housed in France, called ITEL (not coincedentally the latin work for "the way") in which they are building a fusion energy power plant. Pederson is excited and hopeful that ITEL will be successful, and the current plan had it actually producing energy by sometime like 2037. the concept behind ITEL has been around since the mid-eighties but due to the internationl politics around it's creation, it has taken a long time to actually get off the ground.

In America, the field of atomic fusion is looked upon as science, not energy, so there is little public or federal funding.

It is interesting that the only real waste created from fusion is the actual radiation of the power plant, but tremendous amounts of energy are produced from a very small number of fused molecules, unlike fission which makes energy from dividing and dividing (which produces more waste). I'm sure there are potentailly more hazards, but he did not talk about them, and when someone asked a question about it, he did not elaborate or share any new info about it.

Anyway, it was a pretty interesting lecture. If my explanation showed any serious misunderstanding, please bring it to my attention.

So, after the lecture, we went to eat at some typical Spanish place. I had a yummy plate of this egg dish with chopped up sausage and frenchfries: called huevos bombera (yo creo) and then some sort of smallish Tuna like fish, with a side of oily potatoes. It's nice to eat unprocessed food. in spain most of the base ingredients are fresh. We drank lots of red wine, and even had a little cranberry apertif!

tomorrow, it's off to see the bulls, should be muy triste :(

more later.


Blogger Jessica Klarkson said...

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6:12 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

babes, i've been busy, but i've managed to sneak a peak at this blog-a-roo you have here. if you'll permit, me, though, i'd really like to discuss the food we supposedly both ate on friday night when i was at the tail end of putting you through the columbia club thing (dinner being the end), because you're version DOES NOT MATCH MINE (we were sitting right next to each other, i swear we ate the same things and we saw what the other ate!), hahahahahahahaha! silly boy.

12:22 AM  

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