Friday, September 9, 2005
The New York Times today estimated the recovery costs at more
than $100B. So far, Congress has approved $51.8B in spending.
Meanwhile, there have been huge tax cuts for some of us. So the
focus of today's What's New is on unanticipated expenditures.
Even as gas approaches the price of bottled water, Katrina has
cut oil production in the Gulf and shut down key ports. Drilling
in the ANWAR faces a key vote, and the President has ordered oil
released from the strategic reserve. So where is the free-energy
industry? Right on schedule. The San Francisco Chronicle had a
rather skeptical article in the business section this week about
a "clean, inexhaustible energy source." However, we don't do
perpetual-motion in the 21st Century. Nowadays we tap zero-point
energy (WN 2 Aug 02), and
Magnetic Power Inc says it's "on the verge" of it. "We are still
having trouble making it repeatable," the CEO said. "All we know
is that we're seeing more energy output than input, what else
could it be?" Is this sounding vaguely familiar? The Air Force
sank $600,000 in the company. Last year, the AF was investing in
teleportation (WN 29 Oct 04).
Any time now we can expect to hear new claims for cold fusion.
Well, not exactly. The prospect of a hydrogen economy hinges on
the ability to produce hydrogen economically. Thirty years ago,
an inventor named Sam Leach claimed to have invented a car that
ran on water. He said it used a secret catalyst to dissociate
water. That would be thermodynamically impossible. But a brief
report in Scientific American last week implied a new rhenium
catalyst might dissociate water. It was based on an article in
the Journal of the American Chemical Society, but the title of
the story in SA was misleading. The hydrogen was from catalytic
oxidation of organosilanes. Cars still won't run on water.
Maybe it's no longer needed; after all, the election is over. A
report from the General Accounting Office this week doesn't ask
whether it works. It didn't the last we heard 8 months ago,
(WN 18 Feb 05). GAO concludes
that funds are needed to sustain the system to 2011. Why sustain
it? In 1979, in Grand Forks, ND, a worthless missile defense
system was turned off 24 hours after it was declared completed.
The problem is finding a place to test it here on Earth. In the
first test of a nuclear rocket engine in 1965, the exhaust was
just aimed skyward. NASA will not be allowed to vent to the
atmosphere this time. Design and operation of a Ground Test
Facility capable of removing fission products from the exhaust is
a major engineering project. Why is it we're going to Mars?