Revolutionary approach to fusion power?

A recent Aviation Week story has this headline: Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details.

Unfortunately it seems from the story that Lockheed Martin released very few details, and that the news release is mostly a way of getting partners in furthering their research. It sounds more like an advertising pitch than a true report.

The most important difference in their approach to igniting and sustaining fusion seems to be the containment field they’ve adopted. It is spherical rather than donut shaped, the approach most of the other fusion-power research projects.

Still, this is only the first report of their work. If the Skunk Works project pans out, the world five and ten years from now will be a very different place. It is worth keeping our eyes on developments at Lockheed Martin in the next few years.

Lockheed Martin workers on Skunk Works fusion reactor
Credit: Eric Schulzinger/Lockheed Martin

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FAUX-FUTURISTIC dances: shuffle and techno

This video feels very futuristic to me for some reason, as if hundreds of years from now the two dances on it would be popular among young people – and they might well be. Athletic movement to rhythmic sounds has probably existed since humans came into being, examples including African dances to drums, Cossack sword dances, and so on.

The first dance style is the shuffle, created in Melbourne in the early ’80s as a variation of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk. You slide your feet backward a few inches before putting your weight on them. After a few steps you pivot in the opposite direction and slide-walk a few more feet. You add various decorations such as stomps, kicks, and spins.

The second dance is the techno, usually called by the copyrighted term Tecktonik. Created in the early 2000s in France, its main movement is the hands, often holding glowsticks in nightclubs and raves held in fields or gymnasiums. The legs do half-squats or quarter-squats, and the upper body does various sways.

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HATSUNE MIKU, virtual pop star

I was amazed by the singer on a recent David Letterman show, having tuned in at the last minute and being completely unprepared for the sight. She was a virtual person, anime style, called Hatsune Miku.

I watched first trying to figure out how it was done. Then I was caught by the music and the dancing. It had an almost hypnotic effect.

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SELFIE, with ex-Who Companion Karen Gillan, terrific

I’ve sampled most of the new shows, including Gotham, Forever, and Scorpion. To my surprise, the show I enjoyed the most is not SF/F. This is SELFIE, whose main SFnal aspect is that it stars Karen Gillan, who was a Dr. Who companion in its Matt Smith incarnation. She also had parts in horror film Oculus and Guardians of the Galaxy.

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PRINCESS NEXT DOOR first two chapters

On the first day of summer vacation a family moved next door to Gilbert Taylor. They had a daughter his age and he was thrown into her company by both sets of parents.

She seemed ordinary if a bit overly serious. But he was soon to learn that she was a princess, for real. And a deadly fighter. And that she could walk between worlds.

And so could he.

To read the first two chapters click the image below.

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StratoBus: old tech in a new bottle

Most of my career as an engineer I worked on projects with lots of very new technology. Examples included deep-space probes, orbiting satellites, laser weapons, and so on. But sometimes an old solution to a problem is better than a new solution.

An example is the tethered observation balloon. They were used as early as the French Revolutionary Wars. The StratoBus is a project headed by Thales Alenia Space. It updates the old concept in several ways.

It is not tethered physically but by electronic means: software which keeps the balloon in the desired location by keeping track of its drifting and using small propellers to navigate back to its station. The SW also controls buoyancy to keep the desired altitude.

Its observers are video cameras which transmit information back to people on the ground. This removes one of the biggest weaknesses of the old observation balloons: manning. Other improvements you can discover by clicking on the following video.

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EXO, latest Jumper book available now

Just bought Exo, the fourth book in Steven Gould‘s Jumper series. It is the sequel to the third, Impulse, and you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve read that book. Available in bookstores and online.

Amazon          Apple

Click image to buy in Barnes &Noble bookstore or B&N online

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SHIPSTAR (Bowl of Heaven sequel) available

Still reading Wen’s book while dogsitting. (Lady friend’s visiting sick someone.) Try wrangling a complacent Great Dane, exuberant Aussie Shepherd, and combative Cocker Spaniel and you’ll understand the need for escapism!

I instantly bought Bowl of Heaven when it came out. Collab of Larry Niven and Gregory Benford? No need for thought, just reflex. Grab that sucker & rush to the cashier before hordes of SF fans descend & clean out the bookshelf! But held off reading because I’d heard a sequel was coming. Later when it arrived I read it was the 2nd part of a duology. So I’m now free to read the books without fear of a cliffhanger.

The sequel went on sale some weeks ago but until this long weekend I’ve had no time for pleasure reading. Too busy (obsessed) with finishing the Wonder Woman Rethought book. And waist-deep in The Princess Next Door, a Worldwalkers young adult. So NOW! Fudge brownie for breakfast, caviar (well, Thin-and-Crispy pizza) for lunch, and Champagne and quiche for dinner, and thou, O wonderful books, beside me singing in the … erh, patio. (Well, it IS well shaded by trees & the hillside so CLOSE to a wilderness.)

For ordering links to many sources & several formats see Greg Benford’s web page.

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Latest ELFHOME book on shelves now

Just bought Wood Sprites, the latest book in Wen Spencer‘s Elfhome series – from my favorite bookstore: a B&N walking distance from my home!

This is book 4 and introduces a new set of main characters. The three previous books are not needed to enjoy it, but they are fun and widely available – including public libraries.

First paragraph of the blurb: “Even though they attend a school of gifted students in New York City, child geniuses Louise Mayer and her twin sister Jillian have always felt alone in the world, isolated by their brilliance. Shortly before their ninth birthday, they make an amazing discovery. They’re not alone.”

To read the first several chapters and buy the books in the several formats & from the dozen+ online sites click the cover images.

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Another covert-enemy weapon

The older-style jet fighter aircraft are high-performance heavy-weapons systems which can take on enemies who are very technologically advanced. These include the F-22 and the F-35.

The 21st centuries wars are expected to be mostly waged by terrorists and small forces hiding behind civilians and in detail-dense terrain such as forests, jungles, and mountains. The jet aircraft useful for fighting these enemies are smaller, cheaper, but also technologically advanced.

One example is the prototype Scorpion jet built by the Textron / AirLand consortium. It can fly at 500+ mph and as slow as 100 mph, reach 45,000 feet, and travel 2800 miles. “Cheap to buy, cheap to fly,” it can be quickly reconfigured. It’s useful for sophisticated intel collection, and for ground attack – prime needs for fighting covert or low-tech enemy forces.

It can also be used for cheaply training and maintaining pilot skills, a very important but often overlooked necessity for any air force. Most of the second-world countries such as Iran and North Korea can buy or build advanced military planes but are paper tigers. Any conflict between (say) Iran and Israel, or North Korea and South Korea, would wipe the Iranian or NK forces from the skies very quickly – less because the craft are inferior but because the pilots cannot maintain their skills.

You may want to turn the sound down or off on the following video.

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