Posted: Tue Oct 13, 2009 4:33 pm
I have been rebuilding my website during the past month. A few of the old problems have been addressed but now (of course) there are new problems. The old website wasn’t getting many visitors, and I was beginning to feel that it wasn’t accomplishing my goal. That goal should be obnoxiously obvious as soon as you go to my home page. But therein lies one of the problems: a relative of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, and who will hereafter be called Relanon, has been critiquing the new website, at my request. Here is Relanon’s critique: I think I preferred the format of the old site that had more of an educational, interactive fun feel to it vs. this site that feels more “in your face”, abrasive and political —this is a turn off to me. I get the sense from the home page that it’s the product of a fanatic with an axe to grind vs. a thoughtful, objective, contributing member of society calmly and clearly spelling out the facts without speculation, hyperbole, and supposition. I think the up front BIG, BOLD, SCREAMING, STATEMENTS need to be toned down—the same thing can be accomplished with patience, pictures, gentle prodding and teasing-out of people’s curiosity in a step-by-step logic process can’t it?
I replied: I am a fanatic with an axe to grind - no doubt about it, but that doesn't mean the site should be offensive. On the other hand, if I tried to hide my fanaticism and my axe, I think that people would see though that dishonesty and be offended by that as well.
Relanon replied: I like the illustrations and factual information. I think information that leads people to make their own conclusions is much more powerful than a home page that smacks them with what you want right up front. I also think it’s best to focus your bottom-line demand on what you can realistically get in the short-term, then once you have that, proceed to step 2, 3, 4, etc. I don’t believe you’re going to get a full size reactor right from the get go and would do better to take small steps towards that goal.
Here is my reply to Relanon: EMC2 has been building small Polywells for 20 years. It is a waste of money to continue building small ones. The most meaningful test for a machine such as a Polywell or Tokamak is a demonstration of net power. (Producing more power than it takes to run the machine.) Because of the r^7 math function (r is the magrid radius), it is just not possible to demonstrate net power with a small machine. There are no meaningful intermediate steps left to take. It is time to build a machine with net power, and that is the 100 mW p-B11 polywell ($350 million). Well actually it isn't quite true that there are no meaningful intermediate steps left to take: for $200 million EMC2 could build a proof of concept net power DD (Deuterium) Polywell - as opposed to a pB11 (Hydrogen-Boron) Polywell. But there are two problems with doing that, and both involve setting off the naysayers: the Deuterium Polywell produces deadly amounts of neutron radiation when it runs, and the neutrons can be used to make Plutonium. So (1) the non-proliferation people will go nuts because EMC2 has built a cheap, easily hidden, nuclear weapons factory; and (2) the environmental people will go nuts because the DD Polywell makes radiation just like a conventional nuclear fission power plant.
I should add that I agree with Relanon on the need to tone it down and be less obnoxious. I’m just not sure how to do that, and clearly convey the need for timely adequate funding at the same time. Or could it be that my underlying assumptions are basically flawed? Your thoughts?