Nuclear Thermal Propulsion

Just Sunday I was talking to a friend about

Combined Cycle Farnsworth Driven Nuclear Thermal Propulsion.

Here is Farnsworth with his fusor
Philo T Farnsworth with the Fusor

Essentially, you run a nuclear power plant in the -K region, pushing the neutron level to critical with a Farnsworth neutron generator or an accelerator with Deuterium & Tritium in the gun. The heat from the nuclear engine is used to pump liquid hydrogen to high velocities, and heat it to expansion. The hot hydrogen flows through the nuclear power plant, cooling the reactor, and reaching maximum velocity through heat absorbtion. The external heat engine also powers an electron gun, which is used to improve exhaust characteristics and velocities.

Yeah, I really wanted to work on one, but NASA never funds anything that will actually go into space. They only fund professors to sit around and dream up ever less likely nuclear engines, like the CCFDNTP. Well, the designs have gone around the block, and now some people are apparantly using them for ground work.

First for accelerator-driven nuclear reactor

So what is all the excitement? Well, with an accelerator of Farnsworth running the K up to critical, the reactor can be designed without the ability to go critical, much less super critical. It definitely reduces the possible danger of catastrophic failure. In the event the detectors decide there are too many neutrons, the computer can shut off the accelerator. Since all the speed of those reactions can be nano to micro second, the reactor can be micro-controlled in a way that a “Insert cooling rods” reactor could never be.

Myrrha cutaway (SCK-CEN)

I’m happy that the technology is being developed, I’ll be a lot happier when the atomic rockets light up.

Beer Review

Hey Everyone, I just found Steven’s Point Brewery and I am a happy man.
Point – Saint Benedict’s Winter Ale

Point St. Benedict’s Winter Ale
As a short story, I bought a perfectly good stout Friday night, but I honestly wasn’t happy with it. I just wasn’t in the mood for a stout by the time I got it home. I went to Earthfare today, looking for something new. I found Point.

I haven’t examined their line, and St. Benedict’s may be a rare good beer, or the standard. First off, it is far more pale than the average “winter ale.” Most of those have been at least pitch black, sometimes darker. This is red. Maybe a touch chocolate of red, but hold it up to the light and you get ruby.

Looks: Beautiful. Somewhere around a pale chocolate looking down. Red with the light behind it.

Smell: Not much, I’d knock it a couple points for a lack of aroma. I haven’t used Cluster hops before, but I don’t get much hop on the aroma. Ok, didn’t get anything but a faint “spicy sweet” smell. Yeah, If you want a pro review, go to Beer Advocate.

Taste: wow. This is what a red should be. (What I remember Killian’s tasting like when I was a newbie.) It is very sweet and malty, with enough spice flavor to balance. Finish is clean, you can drink it all night without getting tired of it. Loved it.

Now, apparantly Wisconsin doesn’t care for Point, but they are now shipping it around. I’ll probably check out a few in the future. Maybe it will suck, maybe it will be great, but definitely hit the spot tonight.

Solar Cycle Duration Calculations for Cycle 24

I was reading a post by Anthony Watts on “Watts Up With That” and I like what he wrote. Now, I’m not advocating his position, but I am advocating the use of the same data he is using.

You may say, “What?” but here is the deal. Mr. Watts is doing good modeling based on data which seems to produce better (more predictive) results.

1) His results are different than mine, but he has reasons.

2) He is looking at a previous cycle and comparing regions on the sun and their relative xray emissions.

I’m talking about the following graph.
(You may have to click on the -more- link to see this picture.) This picture is tracking the deep, hot, solar jet stream. The jet stream slowly works it’s way south, from high latitudes to low latitudes. There is a “Rush to the Poles” event, which I honestly don’t understand. But this is the graph I have been using to predict that we are at Solar Max…and maybe they are right, Solar Max might be a year farther out. This graph is a lot better than the one I was using.

He is also saying that the longer solar cycle will lead to essentially a degree’s cooling. Worth a thought.

Advertising for a Friend

Tattoos are not as unusual as they used to be. Heck, even relatively acceptable rocket scientists have tattoos these days. My good friend Dewey Mason and his wife Paula have a shop over in Muscle Shoals and they produce beautiful work. I get to look at some every day. I think their website is nice, but lordy, they could use a link. It took me a while to find it. SO, if you are looking for ink on your skin and you live in North Alabama or Middle Tennessee, check them out. Blackbeard’s Tattoo Parlour
K’ outa here.
Blackbeard's Tattoo Shop

The Girl Who Snuck into a Missile Plant

Her name is Lana Santor, and she posts pictures on Live Journal.

Yeah, I know, Live Journal. I read the story first on Gizmodo, so I’ll give them kudos as well. Now I’m having my (Russian Linguist) wife translate some of the pictures so I will know what i am looking at. Amazing stuff.
The picture below is taken from her livejournal site. Figured we should show her picture, so if she ends up dead, at least she will be famous dead.


My wife saw similar sites when she drove around Russia. The old soviet war machine built a lot of crappy industrial sites, most of which are no longer in service. Like Detroit, there are a lot of places in Russia that would cost more to tear down than they are worth. Apparently this old rocket factory is still churning out boosters, or something. Most of it isn’t being used, so it isn’t well cared for. Like an old missile silo, it is a relic of a bygone age.

Caution! Men Working… Maybe not anymore.
Take a look at a mostly inactive industrial plant on the edge of a major city. Beautiful, ugly, but stark, very stark. Makes me want to film an apocalypse film there.


It has been a strange year, and I appreciate my readers, and my co-contributors, for sticking it out with me. We started last year on a good note. I had funding, my wife had a job, I had a rockin’ Christmas.  This year, not so much. I don’t have funding, my wife can’t get full time, and Christmas was nice, but quiet. Last March I went to Gulf Wars and had a great time, I think. I was planning on reporting my war stories when I got back. I had to run to a conference, but by the time I unpacked, things had gone weird. Last April was Tornado alley here in Huntsville.

After April things have gone a bit off. I had a decent amount of property damage and lost income from two weeks without power. I got a bit more time to think and be with my wife. I really call those good days, but they were a bit unsettling at the time.

There was the (now usual) hype that any bad weather is global climate change. Again, I’m stealing images from wattsupwiththat which they stole from noaa.

Of course that ends in 2010, in 2011 we had 84 events,which doesn’t make the 1974 record, but is definitely in second place. Twice as many as an average year, and about all that increase in my back yard. There is still evidence everywhere of the tragedy. Buildings which haven’t been rebuilt, fences propped up with boards, and whole swaths of trees missing. Driving north on Wall-Triana, there are these gaps, like someone decided to put in power lines, and bulldozed a swath a hundred yards wide and miles long. Houses there haven’t been rebuilt. In some cases, there is no owner left to do the rebuilding. In most cases, the owner has decided to move out of the tornado alley. I can’t blame them.

I’m looking for more contributors to this site. If you are interested, email me, or comment on this post. Thanks.

Solar Cycle News


This is from the page, a nice graph of data. The part I like is comparing the signal from January 2000 to December 2012. I believe we have a winner. Of course, in time we will have the real answer, but I think we have maxed around 80 – 85 sunspots vs. 120 ish from January 2000. I think we will have a mild level of activity for the next three years, then it will tail off back to near zero again.

Basically, for those who didn’t harden their spacecraft, You got away with it this time. If I were to plan a mission to Mars, I’d set a launch in 2014, for three years of clear sailing. Be back safe at home before 2023, because that might be a rough year. No idea, we could Dalton minimum for fifty years, but we could go back to high flux cycles just as easily.

There is no science to predicting the upcoming solar cycles. We can simply look over the last 100 years and pick .. “Oh Oh I like number 4!” Thats not prediction, that is going to the Kentucky Derby and saying “I bet a horse wins the race!” I’ll be willing to guarantee that 1) the solar cycle continues 2) the next peak will be around 2023 – 2025, and 3) the sun will surprise us on every other detail.

Hey, don’t touch that, its hot!