pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Fri Jan 31 18:53:36 EST 2003
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Dear Colleagues -
As an indicator of the temper of our technological times, this is
worth sharing in its entirety.
Note item 3., which joins other recently issued patents on the hydrino
(a state of hydrogen below the ground state), devices for extracting
energy from the Casimir Effect (zero-point energy fluctuations in
vacuum), and other inventive novelties. Our government agencies are
turning into a kind of Ripley's "Believe it Or Not."
Also note the WHAT'S NEW subscription info at the bottom.
Date: 1/31/03 3:26 PM
From: opa at aps.org
WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 30 Jan 03 Washington, DC
1. FREEDOM FUEL: CLIMBING MOUNT IMPROBABLE. In his State of the
Union address on Tuesday, President Bush ranked promoting "energy
independence while dramatically improving the environment" as one
of his top goals. In addition to "clear skies" legislation that
would mandate a 70% cut in air pollution from power plants over
15 years, Bush proposed $1.2B in research funding for the Freedom
Car "powered by hydrogen and pollution free." But where will the
hydrogen come from? 95% of the hydrogen currently produced in
the U.S. comes from steam methane reforming, a catalytic process
that also produces copious quantities of CO2. No green points
there. What about electrolysis? It's not as efficient, but the
only bi-product is oxygen. Oops, 65% of our electric power is
generated by burning fossil fuel; no green points there either.
Hydroelectric dams are being torn down to save the rivers, and
other renewables are not up to it. Turn to nuclear? Whoa! The
public is terrified by nuclear fission. But what about fusion?
2. ITER: SPENCER ABRAHAM DISCOVERS A HYDROGEN WELL. In a speech
yesterday at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Secretary
of Energy Abraham officially announced that President Bush has
decided the United States will join negotiations on ITER. It's
not like we haven't been there before (WN 2 Oct 98). "Fusion
power," the Secretary said, "produces no troublesome emissions,
it is safe, and has few, if any, proliferation concerns. It
creates no long-term waste problems and runs on fuel readily
available to all nations. Moreover, fusion plants could produce
hydrogen...our ultimate freedom fuel...to power hundreds of
millions of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in the U.S. and abroad."
In short, it's the greenest program of them all. And better yet,
fusion is nowhere near working. Detroit can go right on making
humongous gas-guzzling SUVs, while building a couple of fuel-cell
concept cars on government grants as a hedge, just in case we
have a breakthrough in fusion. Meanwhile, the President gets to
wear green. All this for a measly $1.2B spread over five years.
3. PATENT NONSENSE: SIPHON HYDROELECTRIC GENERATOR. If fusion
doesn't work, maybe DOE should look into U.S. Patent 6,359,347
issued a year ago. The idea is to use siphons to raise water up
to a level from which it can operate a turbine driven generator.
Recognizing that it's difficult to siphon water up, the inventor
uses a series of siphons to raise it just a little bit at a time.
4. "BIOSHIELD? WHAT'S A BIOSHIELD?" PEOPLE ASKED. In his speech,
the President said Project Bioshield would "guard us against bio-
terrorism," but no one explained what a bioshield is. Speculation
ranged from transparent domes to deodorant soap. We even called
the new Department of Homeland Security...they never heard of it.
In fact, it's a plan whereby the government will serve as a
guaranteed customer to encourage companies to develop vaccines
against potential terrorist bio-agents.
THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND and THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY.
Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the
University or the American Physical Society, but they should be.
Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.aps.org/WN.
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