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Google Enters Race For Nuclear Fusion Technology ( 150

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Google and a leading nuclear fusion company have developed a new computer algorithm which has significantly speeded up experiments on plasmas, the ultra-hot balls of gas at the heart of the energy technology. Tri Alpha Energy, which is backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has raised over $500 million in investment. It has worked with Google Research to create what they call the Optometrist algorithm. This enables high-powered computation to be combined with human judgement to find new and better solutions to complex problems. Working with Google enabled experiment's on Tri Alpha Energy's C2-U machine to progress much faster, with operations that took a month speeded up to just a few hours. The algorithm revealed unexpected ways of operating the plasma, with the research published on Tuesday in the journal Scientific Reports. The team achieved a 50% reduction in energy losses from the system and a resulting increase in total plasma energy, which must reach a critical threshold for fusion to occur.
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Google Enters Race For Nuclear Fusion Technology

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  • Speeded.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @11:33PM (#54879641)


    • Man I'm glad I wasn't the only one; it made me want to punch a baby...
  • I'm just waiting for them to build a hive complex somewhere under the bay area.

  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Tuesday July 25, 2017 @11:57PM (#54879721) Homepage Journal

    Fusion reactor
    Curing cancer
    Life extension (fountain of youth)
    Driverless cars
    Flying cars
    Sentient AI

    Did I miss anything?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Probably, that's just what they've gone public with.

      They literally have so much money they don't know how to spend it.

    • by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2017 @01:25AM (#54879955)

      Fusion reactor Curing cancer Life extension (fountain of youth) Driverless cars Flying cars Sentient AI

      Did I miss anything?


      Faster-than-light travel


      Atomic-powered jetpacks

      Apps, apps and more apps, because APPS!

    • Stamping out Zika (Score:5, Informative)

      by Okian Warrior ( 537106 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2017 @01:36AM (#54879983) Homepage Journal

      Fusion reactor
      Curing cancer
      Life extension (fountain of youth)
      Driverless cars
      Flying cars
      Sentient AI

      Did I miss anything?

      They just released 20 million modified mosquitos [] in an attempt to wipe out Aegypti and eliminate Zika in Long Beach Ca.

      • Modified how? Lasers?
      • Fresno

        But I can totally see how you'd confuse Long Beach for Fresno

        Yes, Aegypti have been found in Long Beach, but that's not where Google is releasing Mosquitos. Yet.

      • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday July 26, 2017 @07:37AM (#54880811) Homepage Journal

        They just released 20 million modified mosquitos in an attempt to wipe out Aegypti and eliminate Zika in Long Beach Ca.

        Not wipe out, wipe out this year. We're talking about a non-native species that can fly and which is easily transported upon humans or in their possessions. It'll be back. I don't think what Google did was harmful, I just don't think it will turn out to have been worth the effort. You'll have Zika mosquitoes back in a hot minute.

      • cooked up a project to infect the bugs with the Wolbachia bacteria


        Vocal chord parasites... Metallica archaea... Diné... Copulation...

        Looks like Konami had an Act 3 up their sleeve the whole time, and it's playing out in SoCal. Somebody call Keifer.

    • They made their business by pulling the rug from under previous search engine giants and they know same could happen to them one day. They need the next money machine in case that happens, they have money to invest so they do, fishing for the next moonshot. Its completely sound business strategy in their position. If any of these listed goals actually plays out, they should be golden regardless to what happens with their search core business in the long run.
    • Of those, which are they most likely to achieve?
    • Killer robots

      The Matrix

    • Did I miss anything?

      Reaction-less engines

      Space Elevator


      Vat grown meat

      Having infinite amounts of money is pretty cool actually.

    • I believe that is the Science Victory in Civ V
  • Well, that ought to finally put an end to those meddlesome European kids and their lawsuits!

    Google has nukes!

    Don't like way Google runs their business in your country!?

    Eat neutrons, baby!

  • Yay! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Now it's only 49 years away from commercial use!

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2017 @12:36AM (#54879819)

    Google's corporate attention span is roughly equivalent to that of a hyperactive two year old.

    • for things that are of no benefit to its business, yes.

      let me guess, your favorite free google toy-thingie's plug was pulled.

  • when the algorithm builds a very large power plant that produces enough power to provide continuous, perpetual electricity for a large American city, say the size of the Denver metropolitan area.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Is it better like this, or like this?" ...
    "I, I can't tell..."
    "like this, or like this?"
    "like this or like this?"
    "they look the same"
    "like this or like this?"


  • I recently read some updates about Google's sister company releasing 20 million mosquitoes infected with some kind of Virus. Is google taking over all the domains that effect human existence.
  • by johanw ( 1001493 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2017 @02:58AM (#54880147)

    Inertial fusion attempts will never be able to compete against tokamak or stellarator designs. This type of experiments delivers knowledge that is mostly usefull for nuclear weapons, so it's no wonder nthat this type of fusion research is the dominant one in the US.

    • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2017 @09:17AM (#54881187)

      Tri-Alpha isn't doing inertial confinement fusion. They use a plasma based design with an unusual field configuration (termed "reversed field". The machine does collide two plasmas but it is still magnetic confinement, not inertial.

      Laser driven inertial has little chance of being practical without a huge breakthrough in lasers. Heavy ion driven inertial could potentially work since accelerators can be quite efficient, but there are a number of huge hurdles.

  • The phrase that catches my eye in this is

    the algorithm revealed unexpected ways of operating the plasma

    . Optimisation and MI is fragile for edge/unexpected cases, so I'm not sure I want this piece of maths used to control an over-white-hot stream of plasma. At least, I'd want decades of testing before deployment and not anywhere near my house or family.

    I'm not a big believer in fusion anyway, except that large, conveniently placed fusion reactor that we call 'the Sun'. If we must fiddle around with this

    • You seem to be a very contradicting person.
      You know nothing about plasma but point to page about a Stellerator, strange.

    • The Wendelstein setup looks very promising, been following that thing since they started their experiments. Plus, it looks like what you'd get if you asked Giger and Gaudí to collaborate on the design. Extra points. But at this stage I wouldn't even write off tokamaks just yet.
    • I am not sure why you don't believe in fusion. It's real. If you don't believe me, go outside and look up.

  • Them again? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Wednesday July 26, 2017 @07:01AM (#54880693) Homepage

    > Tri Alpha Energy, which is backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen

    The design leads of TriAlpha described their design in a late 1997 paper in Science.

    Issues over the next year contained responses from other researchers. They invariably point out that the design simply will not work. In one specific instance, the original paper describes the "Q" of the reactor running on p-B to be about 2.3. One of the responses goes into this calculation in depth and calculates it to be 0.02.

    This system will not work. As demonstrated at about the same time, it is HIGHLY unlikely any non-thermal-equilibrium system ever can due to massive energy losses through radiation. We've known this for almost 70 years, but the evidence by this point in time is absolutely overwhelming.

    • Probably right, but there seems to be some disagreement on the analysis. The key seems to be getting the ion temperature high wihtout heating up the electrons (the colliding plasma rings do this), and then the neutral beam injection can continue to heat ions. There seems to be some disagreement on how to calculate the time for the electrons to reach equilibrium.

      I'd agree at least as far as "unlikely".

      To some extent its a matter of scale. With a sufficiently large plasma I think a variety of configuratio

  • by InterGuru ( 50986 ) <jhd.interguru@com> on Wednesday July 26, 2017 @08:11AM (#54880935) Homepage

    As far as I can tell, it looks like a high tech variation of the Trisops [] machine I worked on 40 years ago.

    Trisops was an experimental machine for the study of magnetic confinement of plasmas with the ultimate goal of producing fusion power. The configuration was a variation of a compact toroid, a toroidal (doughnut-shaped) structure of plasma and magnetic fields with no coils penetrating the center. It lost funding in its original form in 1978.

    The configuration was produced by combining two individual toroids produced by two conical pinch guns, located at either end of a length of Pyrex pipe with a constant magnetic guide field. The toroidal currents in the toroids were in opposite directions, so that they repelled each other. After coming to an equilibrium, they were adiabatically compressed by increasing the external field.

  • ...are all we need then I'm your man. Get me a box of Taco Bell taco supremes and I could fuel the world.

  • "The technology is expected to be 5 to 10 years away from commercial application."

  • ... Google MrFusion (Beta) to be publicly available.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"