Eliminating Left Hand Turns

Thesestudies will have areal impact on street design and planning.  The bottom line is that left hand turns are hugelyinefficient during periods of heavy traffic and need to be diverted into rightturn loops.  The saving on fuelexperienced by myth busters is actually a shocking result and informs us justhow much fuel is spent idling while waiting for a traffic signal.

Fundamentally we need to stopcatering to the left hand turn and spend of making the alternates work well.  This means improving the available right handturn corridors so that the traffic can use it smoothly.  It may seem an inconvenience to drivers whowant to go left but we now know better and should we think on it, idling in aleft hand turn lane while waiting for a traffic opening has always beenproblematic.

The direct saving in both fuelusage and accident rates provide a direct incentive to reengineer all such busystreets and theirs feeders.  I know fromexperience that there are plenty of locations were doing a right hand turn isnot particularly practical and this will take time to fix if it can be done.

Yet beginning with the easy oneswill allow us to educate the public.

Obviously this clearly applies to heavily traveled streets and not your typical residential street network.  however, fixing all this will impact on a lot of residential streets to some degree.

JANUARY 10, 2011

Superstreets are thoroughfares where the left-hand turns from sidestreets are re-routed, as is traffic from side streets that needs to cross thethoroughfare. In both instances, drivers are first required to make a rightturn and then make a U-turn around a broad median. While this may seemtime-consuming, the study shows that it actually results in a significant timesavings since drivers are not stuck waiting to make left-hand turns or fortraffic from cross-streets to go across the thoroughfare.

* a 20 percent overall reduction in travel time compared to similar intersections thatuse conventional traffic designs

* superstreet intersections experience an average of 46 percent fewer reported automobile collisions – and 63 percent fewer collisionsthat result in personal injury

US motor vehicle deaths by year

2005   43,443  
2006   42,642 
2007   41,059
2008   37,261 
2009   33,808  

About 90-115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States

Worldwide an estimated 1.2 million people are killed in roadcrashes each year and as many as 50 million are injured. Projectionsindicate that these figures will increase by about 65% over the next 20 yearsunless there is new commitment to prevention.

There is the potential that widespread superstreet adoption would save severalthousand lives per year in the USA and a few hundred thousand lives worldwide.

The paper is called Operational Effects of Signalized Superstreets in North Carolina.

Mythbusters showed that only using right turns saves gas
The myth was setup from the perspective of a delivery truck driver.Several locations within the San Francisco area were setup as delivery points, then tworoutes were derived. The first route was a more “logical” route trying not tofavor right turns. This route had eight left turns, four right turns, and atotal distance of 5.2 miles. The second route tried to exclude as many leftturns as practical. The “right turn” route was 6.8 miles long, had one leftturn and twenty-three right turns. Each route visited each stop in the sameorder.

The MythBusters concluded that right turns were indeed more efficient in theirtest. While the route favoring right turns was a longer distance and took alonger amount of time, it used only 4.0 gallons of fuel compared to 6.8 gallonsof fuel on the “control” route.

No Left Turn: ‘Superstreet’ Traffic Design Improves Travel Time, Safety

Release Date: 01.10.2011

Filed under Releases

The so-called “superstreet” traffic design results in significantlyfaster travel times, and leads to a drastic reduction in automobile collisionsand injuries, according to North Carolina State University researchers who haveconducted the largest-ever study of superstreets and their impacts.

Superstreets are surface roads, not freeways.  It is defined as athoroughfare where the left-hand turns from side streets are re-routed, as istraffic from side streets that needs to cross the thoroughfare. In bothinstances, drivers are first required to make a right turn and then make a U-turnaround a broad median. While this may seem time-consuming, the study shows thatit actually results in a significant time savings since drivers are not stuckwaiting to make left-hand turns or for traffic from cross-streets to go acrossthe thoroughfare.

"Superstreet" traffic designs result in faster travel timesand significantly fewer accidents, according to the new study.
“The study shows a 20 percent overall reduction in travel time comparedto similar intersections that use conventional traffic designs,” says Dr. JoeHummer, professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NCState and one of the researchers who conducted the study. “We also found thatsuperstreet intersections experience an average of 46 percent fewer reportedautomobile collisions – and 63 percent fewer collisions that result in personalinjury.”

The researchers assessed travel time at superstreet intersections asthe amount of time it takes a vehicle to pass through an intersection from themoment it reaches the intersection – whether traveling left, right or straightahead. The travel-time data were collected from three superstreets located ineastern and central North Carolina,all of which have traffic signals. The superstreet collision data werecollected from 13 superstreets located across North Carolina, none of which have trafficsignals.

The superstreet concept has been around for over 20 years, but littleresearch had been done to assess its effectiveness under real-world conditions.The NC State study is the largest analysis ever performed of the impact ofsuperstreets in real traffic conditions.

A paper on the travel time research is being presented Jan. 24 at theTransportation Research Board Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.The paper is co-authored by Hummer, former NC State graduate students RebeccaHaley and Sarah Ott, and three researchers from NC State’s Institute forTransportation Research and Education: Robert Foyle, associate director;Christopher Cunningham, senior research associate; and Bastian Schroeder,research associate.

The collision research was part of an overarching report of the studysubmitted to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) lastmonth, and is the subject of a forthcoming paper. The study was funded byNCDOT.

NC State’s Department of Civil, Construction and EnvironmentalEngineering is part of the university’s College of Engineering.

Richard Dell on Space Fusion

Thetake home from this industry insider is that over unity fusion is likely tohappen in the next couple of years.  Iconcur for the same reasons.  This weeksdemonstration of twenty times unity will turn out to be a very useful form offusion energy but specifically limited to producing heat.  The forms we are referring to will producehigh energy plasma and an energy takeoff that is mostly electrical which is waymore flexible.

His focus here is to tap suchenergy to drive an impulse motor space craft. Recall that it is only necessary to sustain a one g thrust on a continuousbasis to go to the nearby stars on a long trip. However, the same system puts everything within the solar system a fewweeks away.  Thus a fusion reactor and aone g thruster rigged up as a space craft completely opens up the solar systemto us.

The image gives us some of thepresent design concepts.  I think that weneed a prime space lifter to haul components out of the gravity well and thateverything else must be assembled there. A fusion based lifter would make it practical.

It is great to see folks getting excited about space travel again.

JANUARY 05, 2011

Here is the Richard Dell Jr interview. Mr. Dell believes that he andhis team have developed a method for generating fusion power which isappropriate for providing the propulsion for exploring and colonizing space. Heis confident that this approach could lead to spacecraft capable of flying tothe moon and landing on it, and returning to earth usinga single craft without jettisoning any stages or equipment. This technologycould also be used to send humans to mars in only 2 months. His company, which is stilllargely in stealth mode, plans on generating short term revenue by selling moreefficient satellite maneuvering thrusters to the satellite industry. Mr. Dellis confident that breakeven fusion power generation will be demonstrated withinthe next 3 years.

Highlight answers from Mr Dell in this the interview: 

This technology will change everything. By 2020, we could be activelyimplementing commercial settlement and/or tourist expeditions to Mars.

2011 or 2012 will be the year of small scale fusion

This system will have ten times the propulsive thrust of a George Miley IECfusion propulsion proposal 

5 weeks to Mars with Helium 3 version of the fusion spaceship

In the 98 pager there is a description of being able to use the IEC in jet modefor propulsion. 

Way down the development path would be big fusion rockets like this

The ships that are designed 

IEC Fusion Ship I
500 MT
Isp =16,000
Thrust = 1028 Newtons

IEC Fusion Ship II
500 Mt
Isp = 35,000
Thrust = 4369 Newtons

But near term are progressively better propulsion units that start withsatellite maneuvering thrusters that are ten times better than today’s Hallthrusters.

IEC power units can be added in series to develop higher power units such asrequired for deep space propulsion -- Magnetically Channeled Spherical Array,MCSA

High Power Operation
Eliminates Grid Structure
Increase Energy Confinement Time

They are tuning the IEC configuration for space propulsion

If they pulse it up to several thousand amps then it is OK if IEC only hasscales by cubing the power instead of to the fifth power to get to 25Megawatts.

A 7page paper- Magnetically-Channeled SIEC Array (MCSA) Fusion Device forInterplanetary Missions

Question: Tell us about how you became involved with Dr. Miley

Answer: Several years back I was a Program Manager for a small, family ownedcompany. While I worked there I became very interested in developing an Advanced Aerospace Research Center and began to makecontact with a variety of physicists, technologists and foundations. The ArlingtonInstitute and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Austin introduced me to Dr. Miley, about fouryears ago this March. I am truly grateful to the principals of both of theseInstitutes and I confess that I owe them a debt of gratitude more than I couldpossible ever repay.

So, we all shared at least one thing in common, that the problem with a youngperson out in the middle of a cornfield in Indiana is the same problem for theyoung person in the slums of LA - they have had their frontier taken away fromthem. Think about that. Americahas always had a frontier. We lost it for a couple decades, it was given backto us briefly from ’69 to ’72 and then it disappeared again. It’s time to giveour young people back their frontier. They want it, they need it, it offers aneconomic engine of unparalleled capabilities for our young people and ourNation.

And so our little loosely organized group is focused on three areas, energy,the environment, and space. The thrust I’d prefer to discuss first is SPACE,the commercial development of manned and unmanned space technologies thatenable and expedite exploration and settlement of our Moon and Mars and to doso in this century. Let that sink in. This century. OK? So we hope to beginnext generation development of technologies that facilitate this objectiveusing intellectual property that stands the test and muster of our intellectualproperty analysis as well as showing feasibility in data and testing at thesame time. The combination of the two is the fulcrum.

98 page technical presentation from 2009 by George Miley 

There has been advances since the presentation but the solidity of thetechnical basis can be seen.

Question: In a minute I want to ask you more about your intellectual property,but first, tell me more about the device you call an LTV?

Answer: Lunar Transit Vehicle. Moon and back safely, carry six people plus twopilots/attendants or two pilots and a good bit of gear. Nothing new here,except the Miley IEC technology and hybrid of airbreathing MHD hybrid IEC isan application which we believe we can now amplify in terms of propulsivethrust by 10 times. We want to develop larger prototypes of fusion poweredpropulsion systems that would allow a single stage re-usable rocket/spacecraftto fly to and land on the moon, recover regolith samples, do valuable science, offer some entertaining tourist sights, andreturn to earth safely. We are confident that our aneutronic fusion spacepropulsion system could be a key factor in opening up space and creating athriving space industry. I’m actually hoping with this interview to get someattention from the folks I heard some kid describe recently as the “SpaceBarons”. Space-Barons, if you want the next stage of propulsion, if you wantseven or eight week flights to Mars, we are here and open for business.

Question: Where is the intellectual property coming from?

Answer: We have a commercialization agreement with Dr. George Miley and hisNuclear Plasma Laboratory organization known as NPL. Wecreated a joint venture to explore a novel form of liquid sodium borohydridefuel cell, and I am developing a program for IEC Propulsion. What we all wantto see is improvements in the Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC)prototypes as we build larger and better. We have been conducting extensive Rand D as well as doing commercialization assessments through our cooperativeefforts with M-CAM. The past four years of diligence on a variety ofspace-related energy technologies may soon pay off.

Question: What’s M-CAM?

Answer: Well, I mentioned intellectual property diligence before, and havinglearned the M-CAM system I am still quite utterly blown away when I try toimagine what it was like to do diligence on technology *AND* intellectualproperty assessment before this kind of capability was available. M-CAM takesall the voodoo out, and the best antiseptic is applied, complete illumination.Without the M-CAM team and their software, the past four years of diligence andgroundwork on a whole variety of space-related energy technologies could neverhave paid off.

Question: Back to the technology, how closely are you collaborating with Dr.Miley?

Answer: We have been working with him for the past four years, and we hold himin the highest regard. We have an extraordinary working relationship with him,and now that Bussard has passed away, Dr. Miley needs to be the pivotal figurefor aneutronic fusion propulsion research. George is trying to create a fusionprogram that burns aneutronically, without magnets, and that burns a relativelyinexpensive fuel. This is what we need to get to Mars and back in less than twomonths, and with some excellent inherent shielding of 99% of cosmic radiation.Shielding can deal with the 1% we can’t filter out, the worst of the stuff, themetallic ions.

Question: What are the main technologies that you are developing?

Answer: There are two primary technologies that George’s people are developing.They are modifying current IEC designs to increase plasma flow and pressure. Theyare also developing a novel form of airbreathing hypersonic spaceplane with anIEC. This is called airbreathing MHD-IEC hybrid. The other is an injection ofIEC with a unique device to enable a vehicle to do a horizontal liftoff andthen proceed to LEO. By using these two technologies, we can develop a highlyefficient single-stage-to-orbit vehicle that can operate both within andoutside of the atmosphere. It could lift off from earth, land on the moon andcome back, without jettisoning any stages or equipment. This work is beyond thetheoretical and is now solidly in the realm of applied practical science.

Question: What fuel source will this fusion drive consume?

Answer: Initially it will use Proton-Boron 11. The ideal fusion fuel isHelium 3, which is found in abundance on the moon. PB11 is nearly as good, andrequires minimal shielding from radiation. So we will initially use PB11,and switch to HE3 when it becomes available, or when the Russians let us havemore, hahaha.

Question: You’re joking about the Russians, right?

Answer: ‘Not at all’, or perhaps ‘yes and no’ would have been better. The‘rumor on the street’ to explain why the Russians took He3 off the market isbecause they have an He3 reactor, big project…a project incidentally I would haveliked to see take root in Southwest Virginia.

Question: OK, back to Space, what are the size and weight parameters of thisproposed fusion powered spacecraft?

Answer: It is all very preliminary, so I can only provide ballpark estimates.George did some incredible simulation work to lay out the metrics, publishedthem over 15 years ago, btw. So imagine a 500 metric ton spacecraft outfittedwith a certain number of IEC fusion propulsion devices. With PB11 fuel, itcould lift off from earth, and reach Mars in eight weeks or less. Using HE3fuel, it could get to Mars in only five weeks. These reactors would be smallenough to be placed on a spacecraft the size of a standard commercial jet.

Question: How much funding is your program receiving? When will the firstprototype IEC drives be unveiled?

Answer: Both of those questions involve proprietary knowledge which I am notinterested in doing in this interview. I can, say, however, that all of ourfunding is from private sources - we aren't currently looking for anyGovernment funding. We have been informally working on this for the past fouryears, and we hope to be going public with more details in mid 2011.

Question: Are you collaborating with any other fusion groups, such as EMC2 orGeneral Fusion?

Answer: Developing partnerships and closing on funding agreements is where weare. We are interested in creating entrepreneurial partnerships which play tothe key values of our strategy. and bring more business to our company, whilesupporting efforts that move and advance our technology and commercializationcapabilities. So we are open to collaborating with other companies and we wishthe groups you referred to the very best of luck in 2011.

Question: How will your company generate revenue in the short term?

Answer: Current satellites maneuver based on Hall thrusters, whichare ion thrusters capable of providing small amounts of thrust. Dr. Miley hasdeveloped a new propulsion technique that provides an ultra-maneuverablethruster that can provide an order of magnitude more thrust than an equivalentHall thruster. We see strong short term Return On Investment (ROI) by sellingthis thruster to the satellite industry.

Question: When will we see breakeven fusion power generation?

Answer: We are confident that breakeven will be demonstrated within the next 24to 36 months by someone. I predict that 2011 or at the very least, 2012 will beremembered as the "year of small scale fusion"- there are just waytoo many people building fusors out there and for those who would prefer tokeep the djini in the bottle, sorry, but it’s bound to happen, and it surelooks to many of us that it could be sooner than anyone expects.

Question: How long will the research phase continue?

Answer: This project will be over 5-7 years, but will see economic returns waybefore the program is finished. We’re looking for the two year returns, not thethree year returns. This will be primarily servicing the small satellite sectorinitially, unless we can wake one of the Space-Barons out of their “chemical-enginehypnosis”. But ultimately this will be geared for deep space capabilities withmanned missions within the solar system.

Question: Will this system be safe? Are there any radiation issues with thesesystems?

Answer: To call these systems minimally radioactive is a disservice. Lessradiation will be generated than exists in background space. These systems arecompletely safe. When I first became acquainted with these technologies almostfive years ago I first asked what were the implications in terms of counter-terrorismand I was delighted to find that all IECs work basically the same, ifcontainment is lost, it is like blowing out a candle. It would be moredangerous to blow up a refrigerator than one of our reactors.

Question: How will this technology change the world in the next decade?

Answer: This technology will change everything. By 2020, we could be activelyimplementing commercial settlement and/or tourist expeditions to Mars. There isno silver bullet for jump-starting the commercial space industry except fusion.The demand for Space is there, we’ve all seen it. We are confident that withina decade we will have developed all of the infrastructure and commercialbreakthroughs necessary to enable the rapid manned occupation of the Moon andMars.

Question: How can someone get in contact with you to discuss this program?

Answer: I would prefer to receive email on this topic to my home email address,so you can publish the following : omega dot arimathea at gmail dot com.

Ad astra!

Breaking Network Bottlenecks

It is a simple enough trick, butit simply alternates random node data transfer with data transfer to an as yetunheard from node.  Inevitably bottlenecknodes get the necessary special attention and the overall network willnaturally speed up.

I am surprised this has not beenthought of before since the problem is obvious and obvious overcome byaddressing it more often.  It has likelybeen invented many times already.

Breaking bottlenecks

A new algorithm enables much faster dissemination of informationthrough self-organizing networks with a few scattered choke points.

Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office

September 24, 2010

A new algorithm spreads information (red) much more efficiently innetworks characterized by sparse connections between densely interlinkedclusters.

Graphic: Christine Daniloff
January 11, 2011

As sensors that do things like detect touch and motion in cell phonesget smaller, cheaper and more reliable, computer manufacturers are beginning totake seriously the decade-old idea of “smart dust” — networks of tiny wirelessdevices that permeate the environment, monitoring everything from thestructural integrity of buildings and bridges to the activity of livevolcanoes. In order for such networks to make collective decisions, however —to, say, recognize that a volcano is getting restless — they need to integrateinformation gathered by hundreds or thousands of devices.

But networks of cheap sensors scattered in punishing and protean environmentsare prone to “bottlenecks,” regions of sparse connectivity that all transmitteddata must pass through in order to reach the whole network. At the 2011ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms, which took place in New Orleans theweekend of Jan. 9, Keren Censor-Hillel, a postdoc at MIT’s Computer Science andArtificial Intelligence Laboratory, and Hadas Shachnai of Technion – IsraelInstitute of Technology presented a new algorithm that handles bottlenecks muchmore effectively than its predecessors.

The algorithm is designed to work in so-called ad hoc networks, in which no onedevice acts as superintendent, overseeing the network as a whole. In a networkof cheap wireless sensors, for instance, any given device could fail: itsbattery could die; its signal could be obstructed; it could even be carried offby a foraging animal. The network has to be able to adjust to any device’sdisappearance, which means that no one device can have too much responsibility.

Without a superintendent, the network has no idea where its bottlenecks are.But that doesn’t matter to Censor-Hillel and Shachnai’s algorithm. “It nevergets to identify the bottlenecks,” Censor-Hillel says. “It just copes withtheir existence.”

Consistent inconsistency

The researchers’ analysis of their algorithm makes a few simplifyingassumptions that are standard in the field. One is that communication betweennetworked devices takes place in rounds. Each round, a device can initiatecommunication with only one other device, but it can exchange an unlimitedamount of information with that device and with any devices that contact it.During each exchange, it passes along all the information it’s received fromany other devices. If the devices are volcano sensors, that information couldbe, say, each device’s most recent measurement of seismic activity in its area.

It turns out that if you’re a sensor in a network with high connectivity — onein which any device can communicate directly with many of the others — simplyselecting a neighboring device at random each round and sending it all theinformation you have makes it likely that every device’s information willpermeate the whole network. But take two such highly connected networks andconnect them to each other with only one link — a bottleneck — and therandom-neighbor algorithm no longer works well. On either side of thebottleneck, it could take a long time for information to work its way around tothe one device that communicates with the other side, and then a long time forthat device to bother to send its information across the bottleneck.

Censor-Hillel and Shachnai’s algorithm works by alternating communicationstrategies from round to round. In the first round, you select a neighboringdevice at random and send it all the information you have — which, since it’sthe first round, is limited to the measurement that you yourself haveperformed. That same round, however, other devices may contact you and send youtheir information. In the second round, you don’t just select a neighbor atrandom; you select a neighbor whose information you have not yet received. Inthe third round, you again select a neighbor at random. By the end of thatround, since every device on the network forwards all the information it has,you’ve received not only the measurements performed by the devices youcontacted, nor just the measurements performed by the devices that contactedyou, but measurements performed by neighbors of your neighbors, and evenneighbors of neighbors of neighbors. In the fourth round, you again select adevice whose information you haven’t received; in the fifth, you select adevice at random; and so on.

“The idea is that the randomized steps I take allow me to spread theinformation fast within my well-connected subset,” says Censor-Hillel. But inthe alternate rounds, each device tracks down the devices it hasn’t heard from,ensuring that information will quickly reach all the devices, including thosethat communicate across the bottleneck.

According to Alessandro Panconesi, a professor of computer science at Sapienza Universityof Rome and anexpert on network analysis, the devices on ad hoc networks tend to have limitedcomputational power and battery life, so the algorithms they execute must bevery “lightweight.” The new algorithm is “an interesting contribution,”Panconesi says. “It’s a very simple, locally based algorithm. Essentially, anode in this network can wake up and start operating by using this algorithm,and if every node in the network does the same, then essentially you givecommunication capability to the entire network.” He points out that the currentversion of the algorithm, in which, every round, every device sends all theinformation it’s received, wouldn’t be practical: “The algorithm is veryexpensive in terms of the information that it needs to exchange.” But he believesthat developing a less bandwidth-intensive version is “not unlikely.” “I’moptimistic,” he says.

Censor-Hillel agrees that “a major thing for future work would be to actuallyget practical bandwidth.” But for the time being, she’s collaborating withassistant professor of applied mathematics Jonathan Kelner and with CSAIL gradstudents Bernhard Haeupler and Petar Maymounkov to develop an algorithm thatperforms even better in the idealized case of unlimited bandwidth. “It’s amajor improvement,” she says.

Islamic Revolt

Underlying the uprising in Tunisia and the ongoing massive agitation in Egyptis the rise of the Islamic middle class who quite rightly object to havingtheir aspirations throttled by authoritarian corruption and economicmonopolies.  Such was the self emulatingmartyr in Tunisiawho was no illiterate peasant but was a well educated young man and the prideof a well to do family who sacrificed to see him into university.

They can go on the internet andsee free peoples at work everywhere improving their lives under governmentsthat have slowly learned to just get out of the way.  It is only amazing that it took this long toget up their courage to hit the bricks.

This is a true revolt againsttyranny.  The middle class is not beenadvanced in these countries and they will try a new political system to get itall to work.

At the same time, the lesson of Iran in whichone secular tyranny was replaced by a Islamic tyranny has not been losteither.  The Army everywhere will opposesuch and the democratic process is likely to actually suppress the likes of theMuslim brotherhood. It will still be nervous times.

Whatever the outcome, allgovernments in the Islamic world have been put on notice that they must providefreedom for the middle class to breath and contribute to the political life oftheir countries.

None of this has anything to dowith radical Islam although they will struggle to take advantage of it just asthe communists used to do in days of yore. In Egypt,Mubarak did the obvious and rounded up all the Muslim Brothers leadership andput them in jail to wait out the revolt.  Unfortunately, they were all since sprung and the prison was also emptied.

To really ride out the revolt hewould have to establish a transition electoral program to divert the energyinto electing a representative government. Doing that has been problematic because autocrats never see their way toprovide a truly workable constitution and the result is usually deeply flawed.Recall Russia’sconstitution which still keeps real power away from the elected representativeslong after the original group of thugs went to their graves.

Ideally, Mubarak and the army canbe the midwife to a constitutional assembly whose first order of business is toprovide a constitution.   That way thearmy and Mubarak can be the guarantors of a successful transition and the blockto the rise of specific factions undemocratic in their objectives such as theMuslim Brotherhood.  Of course theproblem in Pakistanis that the army has been both undemocratic in its inclinations and a sponsorof the worst radicalism.  Thus such arole must be transitional.

Far more importantly, the genieis out of the bottle.  Whatever theactual outcome, the middle class has discovered it has the power to challengethe autocrat and demand representative government through the modern ability tocommunicate with cell phones and twitter. Governments can stall but they cannotcontrol the dialogue at all.

We now live in a world in whichthose secret bribes paid to your bros’ secret bank account can become known toall your fellow citizens.

The only solution for theautocrats is to implement representative government as quickly aspossible.  Otherwise, mob rule willchallenge them constantly.

Analysis - Egypt'sAl Jazeera bans channel's key role

By Andrew Hammond
CAIRO | Sun Jan 30, 2011 5:47pm EST

(Reuters) - Egypt'sdecision on Sunday to close the offices of Al Jazeera illustrates the leadingrole the Arabic broadcaster has taken in reporting unprecedented popularrevolts against Arab rulers.

Egypt has often harassed the Qatar-based channelsince it began in 1996, setting off a revolution in Arab media in the face ofstate-controlled information, but it had never before tried to shut down itsoperations completely.

But the channel led the coverage of a Tunisianuprising when it began in late December and toppled Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali onJanuary 14, even though it was already banned from the North African country.

Then, sensing that Tunisia'sexample would set off copycat movements elsewhere, the channel chartedmobilisation in Egyptthat led to huge protests in the past week demanding the end of President HosniMubarak's rule.

"Al Jazeera saw the gravity of the situation," said ShadiHamid of the Brookings Institute in Doha,referring to the two revolts. "They saw it was going to be big beforeother people did and that it would stand as one of the historic moments in Arabhistory."

Arab governments have often closed the offices of the channel, whichhelped put tiny Gulf state Qataron the map and boosted its status as a leader of regional diplomacy.

A major oil and gas power, Qatar employs vast resources toback the channel. This month it began a stack of secret documents revealingembarrassing Palestinian Authority concessions to Israel in peace talks. Emad Gad ofthe Al Ahram Strategic and Political Studies Centre said the effort to smotherAl Jazeera was the last effort of a dying authoritarian system to controlevents in the traditional heavy-handed manner.

He cited the government's move to completely shut off the Internet andmobile phone lines on Friday in an effort to stop people gathering.

"Is cutting the Internet or the mobile network in 2011 a solution?This is equivalent to that. It's the behaviour of a dictatorial state breathingits last," Gad said.

Social media and mobile phone technology have also been cited asplaying a major role in the street mobilisations of the past month, whichtouched Yemen and Jordantoo.


Having ignored the protests for five days, Egyptian state TV has nowfocussed on the disorder that erupted after state security forces withdrew fromthe streets on Friday rather than ongoing protests against Mubarak.

On Sunday state TV -- which like other Arab official outlets has triedto modernise to keep up with the Qatari trend-setter -- sniped against thestation saying only a handful of protesters were in central Cairo, "in contrast to the tens ofthousands Al Jazeera talked about."

But Al Jazeera carried images from a still camera of crowds gatheringthroughout the day at Tahrir Square. The station also has a live channel whosetransmission Egypttried to block on its Nilesat satellite last week.

"We should have taken steps before with this channel since it hascaused more destruction than Israelfor Egypt,"governor of Minya province, Ahmed Diaeddin, raged on state TV. "I call forthe trial of Al Jazeera correspondents as traitors."

Salah Issa, editor the state-owned weekly al-Qahira, said Islamistsoften said to dominate Al Jazeera's editorial line were driven by a vendettaagainst Mubarak.

"It's managers think they are creating a revolution, firstin Tunisia, now in Egypt," he said.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya has been more conservative in covering the Arabuprisings -- less proactive in covering the protests in the early stage andquicker to promote a return to stability once concessions are offered.

As'ad AbuKhalil, a politics professor in the United States, wrote on his popularblogsite Egyptian and Saudi media were both trying discredit the protestmovement.

Sebtal on Big Science Fusion

This is a rather good look seeinto the world of big fusion research that has sucked up a maximal budget fordecades with not much sense that we are much closer to a practicalsolution.  Yet his criticism ofalternative protocols is well taken. This is science that really hates to scale.

This well worth the read and yes,throwing billions of dollars at it is an excellent use of governmentspending.  As I pointed out decades ago,not one dollar ever landed on the moon and not one dollar spent here is ever goingto Iraqand the appropriate Swiss bank account.

While we are at it, also throwbillions at all the alternative approaches. We have to discover something important.

Details of Current Fusion Energy Work from Commenter Sebtal

JANUARY 12, 2011

In response to a posting on UK nuclear fusion research therewere several detailed comments from someone knowledgable in nuclear fusion.

1. Sure, they modelled it, and this is part of the ongoing work. Remember,Culham (I did my PhD there) used to be known as UKAEA and has been in magneticconfinement fusion from the beginning, being home of the team from the westsent to verify the then amazing temperatures being claimed by the SovietTokamak people, when the west were messing around with Torsatrons and ReversedField Pinches.

This is not some Johnny-come-lately "new scheme for fusion"bull-snot, nor (as you are correct in saying) is it some new silver bullet:these people ARE the Europeans who have been trying dozens of topologies etc.and more of that endless theorizing: it never stopped!

Plasmas are hideously non-linear and difficult tomodel. We still don't know exactly how burning plasmas will behave in fusionreactors. Such models, being horribly non-linear and massively computerintensive, and can always be improved. Sure, the potential benefits of alphasin generating "free" current and transitioning to steady stateoperation without the need for enormous indirect current drive have been theorized,and even modeled before.

The significance of this paper is that it represents an advance in the accuracyof the modeling and thus improves the credibility of the idea. One must realizethat the mainstream fusion programme is still very much in the physics stage.ITER is designed as a physics experiment, not an engineering test bed. Themodels of all the stuff that goes on in a fusion plasma are not exact, and inthe past such approaches have turned out to diverge from the reality. This,incidentally, is one of the reasons to have a healthy dose of skepticism aboutall these small private Fusion researchers... MCF fusion in the public sectorstarted out with a plethora of ideas of how to do fusion and converged onTokamaks and Stellarators as they seemed to work best experimentally.Nevertheless, with each new generation of machines performed less well thantheory suggested as new physics kicks in (one of the main reasons that fusionis always 20 years away), and likely those exploring new concepts will find thesame.

Anyway, these analytical and numerical results need to be compared against realdata before they can be truly believed, and this need is one of the mainreasons for building ITER: to better confirm our present knowledge of MCFplasmas and verify what we think we know about the behavior of a burning MCFplasmas. ITER does not represent the ideal commercial reactor, it representsthe ideal Physics experiment. After that, we have DEMO (and probably, DEMOs) toact as engineering testbeds and to try out optimized machines that use all thetricks we have discovered to be smaller, simpler and cheaper. 

2. Tom Craver – 

While it certainly makes sense to study hot plasmas, I often wonder if anengineering approach isn't exactly what is missing from fusion research.

No, not the engineering approach of "optimize an existing system based onknown physical principles". More of the "hackaround with wild ideas to try coming up with a new approach, and THEN applyknown physics to beat on the idea until nothing is left - but maybe sometimesSOMETHING is left that's worth trying

This is more of the "Science fiction as inspiration" approach toengineering - an engineer reads about something that is currently impossible ina SF story, thinks it is just too cool to continue NOT existing, and startsthinking about odd-ball approaches and trying to see what physics might applyto make them work.

"Dang I wish I had a Tri-corder/communicator/space-drive/ray-gun/holodeck!But how would it work? How can I MAKE it work?!" Where a good scientistwould look at the thing, think of 3 or 4 good reasons why it is impossible anddismiss it, a good engineer will be thinking "Well, yeah, butwhaddabout...." - looking for loop-holes in the reasons why it can't work.

That's what I see happening now in the various alt-fusion approaches. Granted,most or perhaps all of them will fail - but then, so have the traditionalscience-based "study plasma" approaches, so far. It's just that thescience-base approach cares at least as much about learning about plasmas andfusion, as they do about getting a working fusion reactor.

"Collapsing Fractal Magnetic fields!" "Magnetically Compressed shellsof plasma!" "X-Ray beams!" "Steam-punk fusor!""Kinked magnetic fields!" "Immaterial electron grid!" 

3. Well, really it needs both. In an ideal world, I guess a fusionprogram would consist of a team of senior engineers and physicists working outwhat the next machine in a path towards something that met thespecification for a "commercially competitive reactor" would looklike, iterating between sound engineering principles and the requirements ofthe physics, and modeling the kind of performance you expect of the plasma.Where there is a question mark, it would the role of physicists and engineers to come up with experimentson the available machines, new diagnostics, modeling etc. to fill in thatquestion mark, verify the model etc. As soon as the new machine has beenconceptually designed, the work of securing funding to build this conceptualdesign would go forward.

In practice, the program is definitely too physics led in my view. Thescientists are not employed like an engineer in the Apollo program with a clear product in mind, rather,they run the normal academic treadmill of publish or perish. This tends to meanthey are perfectly happy and able to make an interesting an valuable scientific career out of running experimentalcampaigns on a given machine using every possible diagnostic they can think of(verifying an old result on a new machine is still publishable, andscientifically valuable too) until literally everything that can be done has beendone. This is useful, because governments fund MCF experiments like Telescopes, they tend to be not so sympathetic to buildingnew ones until you can say you have run out of things to do with the old one.Furthermore, a lot of the programs are run by state institutions with lots ofpermanent staff, so you have to worry about things like redundancies, budget tohire new staff... a lot of work in bidding for new machines is structuredaround the idea of maintaining jobs etc. as well as doing new and interestingstuff. On top of that, the whole thing is taking place at arms length to therest of science and engineering. New ideas can take a long time to permeatethrough (I remember telling someone about the idea of using diamond as a plasmafacing material about six years ago, and being laughed at "you are goingto embed rocks in the divertor?"... the guy knew nothing of chemicalvapour deposition!).

This tends to lead to the engineering being relegated to "here is a budgetto make this kind of device", which works well for scientific experiments,which can be large, costly, but one off ventures, but not so well for ensuringthe concept that is eventually evolved is truly viable for commercial use. Somuch is dependent on things like machine geometry, I wonder if what we learnfrom ITER will be generally applicable, or contain hidden requirements that themachine look substantially similar to ITER, and not be easily translatable to,say, a compact spherical tokamak-stelarator hybrid that might actuallyrepresent the peak of the design space. I worry that in the total parameterspace of viable fusion reactors, we could be missing a giant mountain as wetwiddle around to find the local peak.

That said, the plasma physics really is nightmarishly complex on it's own,irrespective of the device or scheme. I am highly skeptical that there is aparticular device that overcomes that complexity through a clever trick.Working with these small ideas, with the potential for looming complexity whenyou scale up, is tantamount to banging around in the dark and hoping for thebest, though by all means, try them out. With funding restricted though, itmakes more sense to plug on with what we are most advanced in, which isstellarators and tokamaks rather than throwing money at lots of small machinesand hoping for something new. Japanstill maintains a lot of university sized machines though. Besides that, fusionresearch did go through the process of random creative ideas: inertial,electrostatic, reversed field... small experiments of this type were abundant,with big labs running several experiments in parallel. We are left with ICF,stellarators and tokamaks because they worked best and were most worthy offurther investigation. Not because Hubristic people said "not inventedhere". In fact, the reverse was the case: investigation on reversed fieldpinches and stellarators dropped radically in the west, where most interestwas, because the soviets Tokamak concept massively outperformed them.

Those still pushing fusors and RF configurations are in part the same people,who just never gave up on them (which is not necessarily a good thing!) and/orpeople who do not have access to lots of the original research which can bedifficult to get hold of as it is often not on-line, may never have been publishedas it was a null result or because the people working on it were not soconcerned with publication as they are now. A lot of it may still be locked upin the minds of senior or now-retired researchers, most of whom are working inthe MCF programmes, who's response to such ideas is to chuckle to themselvesand say "everyone knows that won't work! We tried it back in the 50's andit was a disaster." but not really bother with debunking it as they don'ttake programmes outside the main fusion programme seriously. And if thatinformation is conveyed to the researchers, it can look a lot like "notinvented here" and "we don't take you at all seriously".

Even within the MCF mainstream, the publication and "new machine"problem means you find things you think are new and then discover resultssimilar to your own that are older than you are, but which have been forgottendue to technical limitations. In the 70's they lacked the computational powerto do so, so assumed it is micro scale turbulence model it as an effectivediffusion, even though the experimental evidence shows transport at the edgewas and still is intermittent, coherent bursts of plasma being shot out of themachines. People just smoothed the data to remove the spikes, fitted aneffective diffusivity, called it anomalous and moved on. This is fine for somepurposes, as long as you remember that the transport is NOT laminar anddiffusive, and the "effective" diffusivity is just a crudeparametrisation suitable for some tasks but not for others. Over twenty tothirty years though, people tend to forget.

4. The stuff you actually have to worry about in big machines like ASDEXetc. and larger is not best understood from a strictly particle view.It's stuff like turbulence. MCF plasmas tend to be quasineutral, with electricfields effectively screened after a few micrometers. Even when at temperaturessufficient for fusion, their gyro-orbits (10cm) are way smaller than the plasmadimensions (meters). These problems were overcome decades ago, and part of thereason why people thought that Fusion would be a lot easier than it has turnedout to be.

The reality is most transport of heat and particles in modern large scaledevices is "anomalous" which is the name we give to stuff that wedon't understand. A mix of instabilities; drifts we hadn't taken into accountarising from, well, all sorts of things from small electric field perturbationsto ripples, wells, and islands in the magnetic field; and properly nasty fluidstuff like turbulence. These problems kick in at different sale lengths, whichis why Fusion has been "20 years away" for 60 years. Cautious groundsfor optimism then that we might not find too many nasty surprises (and perhapssome nice ones!) in ITER as the plasmas are now big and hot enough not toexpect us to be looking at plasmas through the wrong kind of model (particlerather than fluid, for example).

But that is still a lot of nasty nonlinear bits of physics interacting witheach other, and a lot of self organisation is going on in the plasma, so it isan analytical nightmare, and computationally horrible. Only recently has theresources to model more than a bundle of flux tubes in 3-D. I am hoping thatGPGPU computing is really going to help here. Further, they are very difficultto properly measure (when it is happening in the centre of a plasma), hard todo fully repeatable experiments. Your control knobs are rather indirect, andthe precise way the plasma in a given scenario evolves can be highly dependenton the precise condition of the machine, including impurity levels andcleanliness of the wall). Experimental MCF physics is pretty horrible!

A lot has been done with empirical scaling laws (beware!) but if we really wantto design good reactors, my feeling is we need to understand the physics of theplasmas and exploit all the tricks we can. Though it is possible to design amachine that will ignite in ohmically heated machines without such tricks, itwould have to be huge. And probably far far too expensive to ever be acompetitive reactor design I would have thought. On the other hand, this mighthave been a smarter way to go for ITER. The reduced costs in magnetic volumehave been replaced with the complexity of a design that has higher requirementsin other areas, like materials, required control diagnostics and complicatedplasma scenarios, restricting the explorable parameter space.

Now, I'm an experimentalist and worked primarily in the edge (though I've juststarted a bit of work on neoclassical transport in stellarators), so I'm notthe best person to ask about the significance of this work. I don't follow therhyme or reason of NBF seizing on this particular paper (there are plenty ofothers of a similar bent). I would guess incremental as another bolt towardsmaking *better* plasma scenarios that achieve higher confinement times,densities and temperatures, rather than something that suddenly "lets usdo fusion". Actually, we already probably know enough to "do Q=10fusion" in a very large L mode tokamak. Nobody has done it (though it wasthe original ITER design), largely because people keep cutting the budgetsevery ten years. Nevertheless, it would not make for a good power plant andwould be completely unoptimised.

The key areas in progressing from what we currently know how to do, which ismake big physics experiments, to moving onto something more compact, simple andsuitable for commercialisation is:

1. Transport barriers.

Transport barriers (which I think I am correct in saying we still don'tfully understand) in simple terms: the dominant transport mechanism seems to beturbulent, and if you get a velocity shear layer in the plasma, you can createa local barrier in the plasma that blocks the transport. This leads to thingslike H-mode (High confinement mode), that blocks transport at the edge andpushes up the core pressure quite dramatically, and "advanced mode",involving an internal transport barrier that does the same again. These arethings that allow us to get to higher densities, temperatures and confinementtimes in the core, which in turn means smaller devices with less auxiliaryheating, and possibly less stored energy, which is a good thing as a disruptingplasma can dump a fantastically high power loading onto a very small area ofthe wall, which can pollute the machine with lots of nasty heavy metal atomsthat can be very difficult to remove, but ensure all your future plasmasradiate their energy away in line emission and bremsstrahlung.

What would be the holy grail in this area is understanding the exact causalrelationship between turbulent transport and the shear layers, how the shearlayers form, and if we can design plasma scenarios where they formspontaneously or can be induced by outside methods.

2. Indirect current drive. Tokamaks use the poloidal magnetic field to confinethe plasma, the toroidal component just adds stability. The poloidal magneticfield is generated through a toroidal current in the plasma, which is driveninitially by induction. Your plasma is essentially a single turn secondarywinding. This means that your machine is intrinsically pulsed. Just about finefor very large physics experiments, not so fine for a reactor, as high pulsecurrents mean your machine is being continually put under stress and strain. Arequirement for incredibly high vacuum and low levels of elements like oxygenand nitrogen contaminating the plasma, combined with a vacuum vessel that isbeing whacked every few hours or so (or less) with pretty hefty impulses fromhigh power coils is not a great combination. Indirect current drive throughradio waves, or self-organising currents in the plasma, offer the opportunityfor the shot to continue after the solenoid swing has been exhausted, eitherallowing an extended duty cycle or possibly continuous operation.

The particular reason for Culhams interest is that the UK fusionprogramme has been concentrating on a variation on Tokamaks known as theSpherical Tokamak. By opting for a shape that is less donut and more coredapple, you can get some benefits to confinement and radically shrink themagnetic volume (the biggest single cost of a reactor) required to obtain agiven core temperature and pressure. However, this leaves less space for thecentral solenoid, or rather, less space for the armour required to protect yourcentral solenoid from being bombarded with neutrons and (if superconducting)quenching or (if copper) being turned gradually to cheese. So, again, indirectcurrent drive here would be a big advantage as you could have your solenoidactivate to begin the plasma scenario, and then after sufficient self organisedor indirect current exists in the plasma, drop the solenoid out and into a pitsafe from pesky neutron damage.

This is where this work fits in... understanding the theory better now means wecan start to design scenarios and experiments to run on ITER and, ultimately,design machines that are more credible power plants in the future.

3. Materials.

100 displacements per atom over the life time of the machine from neutrondamage. Tritium bred in situ. Power loadings on the divertor of severalmegawatts per square meter (which must be both conducting and non-porous), withmuch higher peak loadings for transient instabilities like Edege Limited Modes(a depressing side effect of the H-mode). Enough said really.

On top of that, some people are starting to suggest that some of the advancedplasma control methods that are required to operate in these advanced scenarios(analogy: high performance fighter jets are no longer aerodynamically stableand rely on active feedback controls) rely on diagnostic techniques that may nolonger work in the kinds of plasmas ITER is supposed to run. Fun and games allaround.

Make no mistake, these are huge challenges... my overall my feeling for fusionis not overly optimistic (though not necessarily totally pessimistic) and I doworry that the political and public understanding of ITER is radicallydifferent from what the physicists think, and also that not enough work hasbeen put into thinking through the feasibility of these things in a marketplace where politicians no longer sign a piece of paper and institute nationalinfrastructure. I recently met a researcher for the EU Parliament who had beenworking on ITER funding. There is a dangerous mix here of Physicists pushing anagenda that fits what they imagine fusion power should look like, and EUpoliticians looking for "an equivalent to the apollo programme" whoactively yearn for the days when big state infrastructure programmes existed.This seems to me to be a recipe for bad strategy for the direction of theprogramme as a whole. I do think we might be better off opting for a stagingpoint with fission-fusion hybrid machines, but generally the community is nowlocked into supporting ITER. Anyone hoping to realistically jump from ITER to aproof of principle commercial reactor producing electricity that is alsosuitable to compete with fission, gas or coal plants is in for a nasty shock Ireckon. Naturally, Physicists tend to act as though a thermal Q=10 means thework is done. In reality, it means the work is just starting. But this isslightly off topic, you can read more about my views on that on a comment here:http://metamodern.com/2010/01/.../

As for the start ups with their RF configurations and polywells, well, I thinkthey are treading the well worn path of massive optimism followed by the harshrealities of nasty physics kicking in at larger powers and scale lengths.


Two minutes after posting this: "I am highly sceptical that there is aparticular device that overcomes that complexity through a clever trick."I read that MIT have built a machine (Large Dipole Experiment) that somehowmakes turbulence, the bane of all controlled fusion research, work to confinethe plasma... :)

So, perhaps there are new thoughts to be had, but a lot of the stuff reportedhere on polywells, reversed field configuration and beam-beam fusion is stuffthat was tried before and was discarded in favour of Stellarators, Tokamaks andICF... so I would take with a big pinch of salt that smaller teams with lessfunding (though it buys better technology now) are going to crack the problem. Iam particularly sceptical when such claims are backed by nice straight linegraphs that don't appear to be subject to any regime changes as the devicesscale with power density or spatial scale lengths.

5. Goatguy

Sebtal, a magnificent reply. I feel humbled, and pleased that you took the timeto enlighten, obviously using the watered-down, yet still almost tangible argotof the physics you practice. Gyroradius, line emission, Bremsstrahlung, ohmicheating, turbulent/shear modes, ... I had no idea that the ion mean excursionoutside individual flux tubes was on the order of microns. Stuff there to chewon.

But I also want to point out to the few brave readers that have made it thisfar - note that the discussion, necessarily, edged from science toward designgoals, then from there to the realities (and unrealities) of the financing ofthe research, the politics of the financing, and the impetus of the politicalparties to politic the issues. It is starkly clear that as one wag said some 25years ago, "the only thing standing between us now and jaw-droppinglysuccessful fusion... is the political will to fund the science to resolve theissues that stand in the way."

On this I agree.

Secondly, Sebtal notes that the (relative) microfunding of alternate plasmaresearch is likely, when scaled up, to hit the walls of the unpredicted effectsof scaling itself. We shall see. I too remain not very optimistic about most ofthe alt.fusion proposals. Farnsworth fusor is magnificent in its simplicity andpresent-tense ability to generate copious neutrons from relatively pedestrian("high school geek home-made") apparatus, but "copiousneutrons" is an enormous distance from practical power-generator levels offused nucleons. As in 10 to 15 orders of magnitude more. 10,000,000,000× to1,000,000,000,000,000× That's a lot of scaling.

6. Sebtal

Er, sorry, it did get a bit long and wonkish.