Scalar Energy

Quantum Science, Scalar Energy Pendant, Nikola Tesla & More

October 21, 2014
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Australian wave energy study gathers momentum

An Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Program funding injection of $256,000 will enable a significant increase in research activity, beginning with a series of complex physical scale model experiments in AMC’s shallow water model test basin due to start later this month (October 2014). AMC researchers Dr Irene Penesis, Dr Gregor Macfarlane and Dr Alan Fleming have been collaborating with Bombora to investigate the performance of their ocean wave energy converter systems since 2012.

Bombora has developed a unique system that converts wave energy into cost-effective electricity. Each unit is rated at 1.5MW and has the potential to supply renewable electricity to 500 homes, equivalent to producing 1 gigalitre of desalinated water each year or taking 825 cars off the roads. The company has also been involved in programmes development, tank testing initiatives and the initial design of test equipment. This will continue during the company’s involvement with AMC on the ARC Linkage project.

“Waves are an abundant, inexhaustible and untapped source of renewable energy that is significantly less variable and more predictable than other renewable resources such as wind or solar” said Bombora Director Shawn Ryan. “Our system features a sturdy, seabed mounted structure with a flexible membrane that enables it to withstand storms and harness a greater proportion of the available wave energy. The system’s flexible membrane and simple valving squeezes air through a closed circuit and extracts energy with a central air turbine to generate electricity.”

Dr Macfarlane added that the results of the research are expected to help Bombora realise and expand its existing development, calibration of computer modelling and understanding of the technical hydrodynamic characteristics of the system. Plans for further collaboration with Bombora on another ARC Linkage Project in the 2015 round are already underway. Both parties are hoping that this will motivate additional collaborators from Edith Cowan University and Curtin University to join the project team.

For additional information:

Australian Maritime College (AMC)

Bombora Wave Power

October 21, 2014
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Does Lockheed Martin Really Have a Breakthrough Fusion Machine?

Lockheed Martin’s announcement last week that it had secretly developed a promising design for a compact nuclear fusion reactor has met with excitement but also skepticism over the basic feasibility of its approach.

Nuclear fusion could produce far more energy, far more cleanly, than the fission reactions at the heart of today’s nuclear power plants. But there are huge obstacles and no hard evidence that Lockheed has overcome them. The so-far-insurmountable challenge is to confine hydrogen plasma at conditions under which the hydrogen nuclei fuse together at levels that release a useful amount of energy. In decades of research, nobody has yet produced more energy from fusion reaction experiments than was required to conduct the experiments in the first place.

Most research efforts use a method that tries to contain hot plasma within magnetic fields in a doughnut-shaped device called a tokamak. Three research-scale tokamaks operate in the United States: one at MIT, another at a lab in Princeton, and a third at a Department of Energy lab in San Diego. The world’s largest tokamak is under construction in France at an international facility known as ITER, at a projected cost of $50 billion.

Tom McGuire, project lead of the Lockheed effort, said in an interview that the company has come up with a compact design, called a high beta fusion reactor, based on principles of so-called “magnetic mirror confinement.” This approach tries to contain plasma by reflecting particles from high-density magnetic fields to low-density ones.

Lockheed said the test reactor is only two meters long by one meter wide, far smaller than existing research reactors. “In a smaller reactor you can iterate generations quicker, incorporate new knowledge, develop faster, and make riskier design choices. That is a much more powerful development paradigm and much less capital intensive,” McGuire said. If successful, the program could produce a reactor that might fit in a tractor-trailer and produce 100 megawatts of power, he said. “There are no guarantees that we can get there, but that possibility is there.”

The small team developing the reactor at the company’s skunkworks in Palmdale, California, has done 200 firings with plasma, McGuire said, but has not shown any data on the results. However, he said of the plasma, “it looks like it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.” He added that with research partners Lockheed could develop a competed prototype within five years and a commercial application within a decade. The company is even talking about how fusion reactors could one day power ships and planes.

But many scientists are unconvinced. Ian Hutchinson, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT and one of the principal investigators at the MIT fusion research reactor, says the type of confinement described by Lockheed had long been studied without much success.

Hutchinson says he was only able to comment on what Lockheed has released—some pictures, diagrams, and commentary, which can be found here. “Based on that, as far as I can tell, they aren’t paying attention to the basic physics of magnetic-confinement fusion energy. And so I’m highly skeptical that they have anything interesting to offer,” he says. “It seems purely speculative, as if someone has drawn a cartoon and said they are going to fly to Mars with it.”

Hutchinson adds: “Of course we’d be delighted if a real breakthrough were possible, but when someone who shows no evidence of understanding the issues makes a bald claim that they will just make a small device and therefore it will be quicker [to develop], we say, ‘Why do they think they can do that?’ And when they have no answers, we are highly skeptical.”

Lockheed joins a number of other companies working on smaller and cheaper types of fusion reactors. These include Tri-Alpha, a company based near Irvine, California, that is testing a linear-shaped reactor; Helion Energy of Redmond, Washington, which is developing a system that attempts to use a combination of compression and magnetic confinement of plasma; and Lawrenceville Plasma Physics in Middlesex, New Jersey, which is working on a reactor design that uses what’s known as a “dense plasma focus.”

Another startup, General Fusion, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, tries to control plasma using pistons to compress a swirling mass of molten lead and lithium that also acts as a coolant, absorbing heat from fusion reactions and circulating it through conventional steam generators to spin turbines (see “A New Approach to Fusion”).

October 21, 2014
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Ballenger brings rural character, business acumen to recorder’s race

COLUMBIA —  On a normal workday at the Boone County recorder of deeds office, it might be hard to guess that deputy recorder Lisa Ballenger is a farm girl. Bracelets and earrings appear carefully selected to match her business-casual wardrobe.

Her necklace, though, offers a hint: a sterling silver horse pendant hangs from a black leather band, displaying her love for horses.

PERSONAL: Age 51. Married to Gary Ballenger. They have two sons and two daughters.


ON THE WEB: Campaign website, Twitter, Facebook page

OCCUPATION: Deputy recorder of deeds for Boone County

EDUCATION: Graduated from Ridgeway High School in 1981

BACKGROUND: Member of Woodcrest Chapel


The recorder of deeds office is responsible for filing and maintaining marriage licenses, real estate documents, veterans’ discharge records and tax liens. It maintains records related to deeds of trust, easements, surveys, plats, wills, road rights of way and patents. The recorder of deeds serves four-year terms. The salary is $90,043.

Read about Lisa Ballenger’s challenger, Nora Dietzel.

Ballenger, a Republican who is campaigning to replace 35-year incumbent Recorder of Deeds Bettie Johnson, grew up on a ranch near Bethany in northwest Missouri. She takes pride in the fact that she and her sister were required to do the same chores her three brothers did. Ballenger believes the work ethic she’s developed on the farm and her professional career with Walmart and the recorder’s office have prepared her to succeed her boss.

“There’s a lot of things that happened on the farm,” Ballenger said. “I’ve done everything on there … I have bailed hay, I have drove tractors, I have ate many a meals on the back of a pickup truck, and doing homework all out in the field because that’s what our life was. I was still milking cows when I was 18.”

Time on the farm wasn’t all hard work. On Sundays after church, her family would roast weenies, ride horses or go swimming at Brooklyn Falls.

Ballenger graduated with a class of 16 at Ridgeway High School in 1981. She said she loved the one-on-one interactions she had with teachers in small classes.

“You get a lot of hands on teaching and learning because the classes were small, and you got more individual attention,” Ballenger said. “I’m a farm girl, so I kinda see a lot of the rural communities, things that they do. Smaller schools, smaller communities.”

After Ballenger graduated, her parents moved to Hallsville, then Harrisburg and finally to Columbia in search of better work. She has lived in Columbia since 2001.

A public job

Ballenger’s first full-time job out of high school was at the Walmart on Paris Road in Columbia. She began as a cashier and worked her way up through customer service and management positions. She spent her last two years with Walmart as advertising coordinator for all three of Walmart’s Columbia stores.

She laughed as she conceded that Walmart was a tough place to work. It was a very public job that taught her a lot about leadership and service, she said, and one that helped prepare her to be recorder of deeds.

Ballenger said Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club, was “a great mentor.” He often held motivational meetings and visited with Walmart managers and associates.

“He taught us and showed us and worked with us. He was a great leader,” Ballenger said. “His interactions with the associates was just amazing. He was a hands-on type of guy.”

Ballenger left Walmart after the birth of her second child in 1990 because she wanted to focus on her family. Just a year later, though, she applied for a two-month temporary job at the recorder’s office.

“Walmart was great and I got to learn a lot, but I fell in love with the recorder’s office,” Ballenger said.

She’s been there 23 years and spent nearly all that time as deputy recorder.

Ballenger said she enjoys the importance of working with historical records, some of which date as far back as 1821. The tasks at the recorder’s office, though, have shifted with time. When Ballenger began working there, the staff had just stopped indexing records by hand and moved on to computers.

Ballenger said her first goal if she’s elected is to take care of the citizens of Boone County.

“It’s giving them that respectful, responsive attention when they come into that office,” she said. “Just keep on giving them great service.”

She also wants to improve the digitization of documents so that the public can do computer searches for records dating back half a century.

“Right now, you can go to the book and make a copy from the book,” Ballenger said. “What I want to do is have online current records. I want to have a 50-year search.”

Digital records also would make one-on-one contact with aging documents unnecessary and could solve the problem of deteriorating microfilm.

Ballenger also hopes to add a surveillance system in the recorder’s archive room to help protect old and fragile books from abuse.

“I have walked in, and we have seen people actually literally pulling these old books off the shelf and just throwing them on the index table,” Ballenger said.

Family life

Ballenger now lives on a 25-acre farm at 3000 N. Glendale Drive with her husband, Gary Ballenger, and 18-year-old son, Dalton. She calls her home “old-timer’s brick.” The property features two red barns, a 3-acre lake and Ballenger’s flower garden. It’s home to two horses and four barn cats.

The Ballengers have been married for 12 years. They met in 2002 at the wedding reception for Lois Miller, who also works in the recorder’s office and made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for recorder of deeds in the August primary.

“Actually, I met her by the keg,” Gary Ballenger said with a laugh. “Lisa is tough. Lisa is a farm girl, and she can do anything that I can do. She can drive a T-post into the ground. She can buck hay bails. She doesn’t quite look that way.”

Ballenger ditched her business causal clothing for something more farm-ready for the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 11. She sported a bright pink hooded fleece jacket beneath an orange campaign T-shirt that blended with the clusters of pumpkins scattered around the river village. Her family also wore the campaign shirts.

Denlee Schutte, Ballenger’s 3-year-old granddaughter, remained attached to her grandmother’s hip as Ballenger wandered the town and talked with people in the crowd.

Ballenger said the toughest part of campaigning is spending less time with her family.

“I was out putting up signs and going door-to-door last night, and my granddaughter called and said ‘Nana can I come down for a little while?’” Ballenger said. “We didn’t get home until 8:30 that night,” she said with a note of disappointment.

Although she was unable to see Denlee right away, Ballenger finished what she was doing for the evening and spent time with her granddaughter.

Even the newest addition to the Ballenger family came along for the pumpkin festival. Her second granddaughter, Halee, is just 8 weeks old and was born on the night of Ballenger’s kick-off fundraiser.

Ballenger’s daughters, Alaina Wyatt and Holli Schutte, said their mom is very outgoing.

“She is a ball of energy,” Schutte said. “She gets things done.”

Schutte said that her mother’s personality allows her to be open with people and makes her a good candidate.

“She’ll put her mark on ya’.” Schutte said. “You won’t forget her.”

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.

October 21, 2014
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How Eleven Brothers Made El Pescador a Thriving Set of Family Restaurants

“Getting married is like starting a restaurant. You have to look into things before you get serious.”
–Manuel Ortiz on building a successful business (and marriage).

At the restaurant — new look, time-honored values

On a busy Monday lunch hour, my mother and I went to El Pescador number one, a home-grown chain of Mexican seafood restaurants founded by the Ortiz family in Bell Gardens, two blocks from our family home. When I told my mother about this essay she revealed yet another personal connection to the story.

Doña Isidra Ortiz, the family matriarch, had multiple businesses in her lifetime, among them a jewelry business, and Mom was a happy customer. From inside her blouse, she pulled out a gold chain with a tear-drop pendant: a Virgen de Guadalupe with golden rays carved into the gold radiating behind her.

“I bought this one from her,” she said. Our table looked out at the Eastern Avenue traffic. “The one you have I bought from her too. Le compre muchas cosas y todas muy bonitas.”

Growing up, we were neighbors with Doña Luz, niece to Doña Isidra, and cousin to Don Manuel, the restaurant founder. The family comes from a long line of business people, or comerciantes, as founder Don Manuel called them. As a widow, Doña Luz supported herself and four daughters while also paying a mortgage by selling thousands of artificial flower arrangements. If there’s one thing people in Bell Gardens have, it’s drive and remarkable work ethic, making fortunes despite great obstacles.

When Mom and I walked into the restaurant, we recognized Doña Luz’s arrangements on every table and wall: silk star lilies, their edges tinged with a tangerine hue. White calla lilies and sunflower garlands hung on the white-washed walls, just above paintings with Rivera-influenced depictions of working-class Mexico.

Covered in Talavera blue and white tiles, the inside of the current Bell Gardens Pescador is up to date with flat screen televisions and a booming sound system. Don Eliazer Ortiz, Sr. is the current owner, and his son Eli junior works alongside him. The hand-tooled wood chairs and tables are spaced out but close enough to create a lively ambiance, a marine motif with a coastal Mexican flavor.

Don Manuel Ortiz opened the first restaurant in 1983. It was much smaller, the booths closer together, but still had the warm feeling each restaurant emits: cordial and fast service, fresh ingredients, and ambiente, a neighborly environment that is one of many secrets to their successful family business.

Mom and I enjoyed ceviche de pescado on a tostada, a guava agua fresca (honestly the best I’ve ever had), and missed the owner by minutes on that first visit. On my second visit, I met Eli, but not his father, striking up a conversation about the family’s great success.

“Each Pescador is individually owned and operated,” he told me one afternoon outside the heavy wood doors of the restaurant. Eli’s father took over the first Pescador once Don Manuel retired and developed the corner of Lubec Street and Eastern Avenue; it used to be lined with dank, small bars. The City of Bell Gardens was happy to see the Ortiz family take over that corner and improve the look and feel or the business strip.

Although I did not meet the current owner, his staff and family were extremely friendly and open to speaking with me. I would later find out that Univision, or el canal 34 as many Los Angeles families know it, had done news stories on them in the past (and used them to cater their events). Also of note was a story in El Show de Cristina, aired on the channel. Now-famous singers like Graciela Beltran and Nidia Rojas both sang at Pescador restaurants early in their careers. The incomparable Jenny Rivera was at the grand opening of the South Gate Pescador, number two in the sequence; her father was friends with Don Manuel and his brothers. To be sure, the Ortiz family are local celebrities in our southeast book.

But it didn’t happen overnight. Don Manuel told me they had “muchas decepciones” when they first opened — a long list of disappointments they weathered through recessions into redevelopment and growth.

At home — where the lessons were first learned

At the simple kitchen table where we talked, Don Manuel reminisced about his mother’s enterprising skills. “Mi mamá era luchona,” he said. He and his ten brothers got their entrepreneurial knowledge from her. From their father, Don Carlos, he said they learned “el ser honrado y trabjador” — to be honest and hard-working. Their family, when he was a child, owned a farm in Jalisco where they grew and raised their own food, with plenty to sell along the busy road near the home. As a child, Don Manuel and his brothers sold alfalfa drinks, home-made candies, and dozens of other staples.

Elegant portraits of the late Doña Isidra and her husband el Señor Carlos gaze lovingly onto the den in the Downey home of Don Manuel. He tells me that he still senses his mother’s presence in the home. How could he not? She passed away in 2013 and her spirit is felt every day at the chain of over 20 Pescador Family Restaurants.

By 1983, Don Manuel had saved about eight thousand dollars from his many jobs in the restaurant business over the years, starting at this grandfather’s taquerías in Mexico City as a boy, then as a chef in Santa Paula, a human resources and inventory manager, as an accountant, and lastly, as a chef at the Elizabeth Seafood Restaurant in Long Beach.

October 21, 2014
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While Didcot B burned, renewable energy powered on

Renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, is frequently criticised for being “unreliable”. But the major fire at RWE’s Didcot gas-fired power station on Sunday evening shows that traditional energy generation is also intermittent. Moreover, accidents at coal, gas and nuclear plants frequently involve much larger amounts of electricity dropping off the grid and at much shorter notice.

The Didcot station was running at full capacity on Sunday evening, RWE told me. So the cooling tower fire, which forced unit 5 to close, led to the instantaneous loss of 700MW of electricity just after 8pm. That is about half-a-million-homes-worth of power that the National Grid had to find with zero seconds’ notice.

It pulled off this balancing act using a safety net, called the regulating reserve, that it is one of a number of back-ups always on standby to ensure the UK’s electricity supply remains stable. The regulating reserve is a mix of electricity, such as pumped storage and gas power, kept in reserve to compensate for any sudden drop outs.

Big power stations shutting at short notice is more common than you might think.

The Didcot fire is at least the third at a UK fossil fuel-fired power station in 2014, according to Reuters. In February, fire permanently closed E.ON’s 370MW unit at Ironbridge, while in July, two units at SSE’s 1,000MW Ferrybridge coal plant in West Yorkshire were shut after a fire.

Neither is nuclear immune from shutdowns, with EDF Energy taking four of its nuclear reactors offline in August after a crack was found in a boiler. Combined with Didcot B, these unplanned outages alone have removed 7% percent of total electricity generation capacity.

Heysham nuclear power station, one of four nuclear power reactors that were shut down after a defect was discovered in one of them
Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

The first lesson to draw from the Didcot fire relates to energy security. Due to their size, problems at centralised power plants pose a greater risk to keeping the lights on than the loss of, say, one turbine in a wind farm, or a few solar panels in an array. Power station drop-outs can occur suddenly and for unexpected reasons, like a plague of jellyfish or seaweed, both of which have knocked out nuclear power stations recently. In contrast, wind can be accurately forecast a day or two ahead and the sun rises and sets like clockwork.

The risk posed by big plants falling off the grid will rise further if EDF build their 3.2GW nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Such is its size – a “behemoth” according to Owen Paterson – that National Grid is having to ramp up its back-up measures to cope. In a stunning example of perverse logic, the £160m-a-year cost of this bigger safety net is being spread across all energy suppliers, including renewables, because “increasing costs on larger users could delay the commissioning of large nuclear plants”.

The second lesson to draw from the Didcot fire is that the intermittency of some renewables is simply not a problem. On Sunday, the same day the Didcot station crashed offline, wind power provided its greatest ever share of UK electricity: 24%. And the lights stayed on.

A fire engine is parked in front of a fire damaged part of the Didcot B power station
Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

In April, a Royal Academy of Engineering report concluded wind capacity could more than double from today’s 11GW by 2020 without any changes to how the energy system is balanced. The grid can cope.

It is ironic that Sunday was also the day that the Conservative party’s war on renewable energy opened a new front, with environment secretary Liz Truss changing farm subsidy rules to undermine solar farms. This is despite solar energy being a “promising technology” whose price is “falling rapidly” – and that’s Tory climate sceptic Tim Montgomerie talking.

Renewable energy come out as most popular in every opinion poll, with solar often getting more than 90% approval. It boosts energy security by being both decentralised and not relying on imported fossil fuels. Onshore wind is the cheapest clean energy available, but communities secretary Eric Pickles continues his crusade against it.

As the flames of Didcot burned, Truss and Pickles fiddled in order to foil renewable energy and appease the minority of the public who oppose it.

Lark Energy’s Wymeswold Airfield, one of the UK’s largest solar farms
Photograph: Christopher Thomondfor The Guardian./Christopher Thomond

October 21, 2014
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Violin Memory Selects Glassbeam’s Next Generation Platform for Machine Data …

SANTA CLARA, CA, Oct 14, 2014 (Marketwired via COMTEX) –
Glassbeam, Inc., the machine data analytics company, today announced
that Violin Memory(R), Inc.

VMEM, +2.14%

a leading provider of
all-flash storage arrays and appliances, has selected the Glassbeam
platform to deliver key performance and Health Check analytics for
its upcoming client portal. Through these advanced analytics, Violin
Memory will deliver differentiated, mission-critical performance that
extends their customers’ ability to be agile in responding to market
and industry requirements, and thereby provide predictable
information technology leadership.

Violin Memory designs and manufactures storage products that
transform the speed of business, providing high-performance,
always-available and low-cost management of critical business
information and applications. With the advent of the Internet of
Things (IoT), Violin Memory’s storage products generate complex
machine data as call-home that has tremendous value for its internal
business operations and its customers to provide proactive,
predictive and prescriptive intelligence through online portals.

With Glassbeam SCALAR, Violin Memory can collect, organize and
convert complex and large log files, and turn this into actionable
business intelligence. Additionally, thousands of Violin Memory’s
end-users can use Glassbeam inside Salesforce, with its recent single
sign on integration, through a single URL. Glassbeam’s IoT platform
allows Violin Memory to offer its customers an entirely new dimension
of value-added service including the ability to take proactive
remedial measures to ensure that all systems work effectively with
minimal downtime.

Glassbeam’s patent-pending, cloud-based technology enables customers
to reduce costs, increase revenues, accelerate product time to
market, and improve customer satisfaction and retention. Glassbeam
customers and partners include Fortune 500 companies and enterprises
across a variety of markets including storage, wireless, networking
and medical devices.

Supporting Quotes
“After looking at various machine data analytics
vendors and home-grown projects, we chose Glassbeam on account of its
unique ability to parse a variety of complex data at scale. As a
customer-centric organization, we are always looking to offer a
better end-user experience, and we truly believe that Glassbeam will
provide substantial value toward this effort.”
– Ebrahim Abbasi,
senior vice president of operations, Violin Memory, Inc.

“Violin Memory is a forward-thinking storage solutions innovator, and
our partnership validates Glassbeam’s ability to provide business
value to end-customers who are actually using the devices being
analyzed. This also validates our integration with Salesforce and
will benefit all CRM users who need support analytics adjacent to
case information.”
– Puneet Pandit, CEO and co-founder, Glassbeam,


--  Company
--  Twitter
--  LinkedIn
--  Blog

About Violin Memory, Inc.
Business in a Flash. Violin Memory
transforms the speed of business with high performance, always
available, low cost management of critical business information and
applications. Violin’s All Flash optimized solutions accelerate
breakthrough CAPEX and OPEX savings for building the next generation
data center. Violin’s Flash Fabric Architecture(TM) (FFA) speeds data
delivery with chip-to-chassis performance optimization that achieves
lower consistent latency and cost per transaction for Cloud,
Enterprise and Virtualized mission-critical applications. Violin’s
All Flash Arrays and Appliances, and enterprise data management
software solutions enhance agility and mobility while revolutionizing
data center economics. Founded in 2005, Violin Memory is
headquartered in Santa Clara, California. For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter at

About Glassbeam
Glassbeam is the machine data analytics company.
Bringing structure and meaning to data from any connected device,
Glassbeam provides actionable intelligence around the Internet of
Things. Glassbeam’s next generation cloud-based analytics platform is
designed to organize and analyze multi-structured data, delivering
powerful product and customer intelligence for companies including
IBM, HDS, Aruba Networks and Meru Networks. For more information,

Media Contact
Danielle Salvato-Earl
Kulesa Faul for Glassbeam, Inc.
(650) 922-7287
Email Contact

SOURCE: Glassbeam, Inc.

(C) 2014 Marketwire L.P. All rights reserved.

October 21, 2014
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Understanding quantum tunnelling

The recent claim from

Stark Industries
Lockeed Martin that a compact fusion reactor could be built soon is, if true, a breakthrough in engineering rather than basic physics. The basic physics of fusion has been known for some time, and a key element of understanding it is quantum tunnelling. Nuclei have a positive electric charge, and since like charges repel, there is an energy barrier to be overcome. Once the barrier is overcome, the strong nuclear force takes over¹. One way of overcoming the barrier is ‘quantum tunnelling’, and, weird though it sounds (and indeed is) the maths and physics of that is quite well understood.

Here’s how it works.

The first thing to understand is that quantum particles – and all particles are quantum particles once you are as small as an atom – behave, in some ways, like waves as they travel around. The big question “Is it a wave or a particle?” was answered by quantum mechanics, and the answer was “No it’s a quantum.” Waves and particles are both concepts that work well in everyday life, and emerge from quantum mechanics as good approximations to how things really behave, but the reality at the atomic scale is neither one nor the other. Or in some ways, it is both.

Waves and exponentials

Next, we need to look at the mathematics behind waves. If you don’t want to follow the maths, I suggest skipping to the summary at the end, it’s hopefully still interesting. But I hope you stay, and at least check out the animated gif because it’s lovely.

The most common wave in this context is a sine wave. This is a somewhat mysterious mathematical function, written sin(x), and sin(x) will oscillate up and down between 1 and -1 forever as x increases. This always used to bug me. “Sin” was probably the first time I came across maths that used words instead of numbers and symbols, and it unnerved me. Anyway what was a sine really?

I became happier with sines (and cosines) when I realised they could be written as a power series, very much like the exponentials that I wrote about here. In fact the series for sines and cosines are closely related to the series for an exponential. If some variable, call it y, is the exponential of x, the expression for it goes like this:

y = eˣ = exp(x) = 1 + x + x²/2! + x³/3! + x⁴/4! … and so on forever.

If x is bigger than zero, then y grows exponentially as x increases. If x is less than zero, you get an exponential decay toward y = 0 as x gets more and more negative. The symbols in there are described in more detail here, and it’s quite easy to convince yourself this works by trying some values of x in a calculator.

The series expansion for y = sin(x) is

y = sin(x) = x – x³/3! + x⁵/5! – … and so on forever.

and cosine is

y = cos(x) = 1 – x²/2! + x⁴/4! - … and so on forever.

It might not be obvious that these series build up oscillating functions like signs and cosines, but you can again (taking the experimentalist’s approach to maths) see it happen on a calculator, or in this animation showing how the sine function builds up as you add more and more terms in the series above:

As you add more and more terms to the series, you gradually build a more and more complete sine curve. (The black curve is Sine, the coloured ones are the various approximations as you add more terms.) Credit: IkamusumeFan, Wikimedia

It starts with y = x, a straight line. Then y = x – x³/3!, which looks a bit more curvy, and so on. The N in the plot indicates the number of terms from the series that have been included.

You might notice that the three series, exponential, sine and cosine, look fairly similar, and they can indeed be related to each other, in quite a special way, as long as you don’t mind introducing an imaginary number, i, which is the the square root of minus one. So long as you accept that i² = -1, then you can work out that

eⁱˣ = exp(ix) = cos(x) + i sin(x )

(Try it out for the first few terms if you don’t believe me. Also, apparently that exponent isn’t showing up correctly for everyone. It is meant to say e-to-the-i-times-x, or exp(ix).)

So there’s an odd thing here. The function eˣ (or exp(x)) is an exponential growth with positive x, an exponential decay with negative x, and an oscillating wavefunction if x is imaginary!

Imagine this

Back to the physics, the equation which describes quantum particles² is the Schrödinger equation³,and its solutions are wavefunctions that, in some approximation you can write as eⁱªˣ, (or exp(iax)) where x is the distance travelled, and a turns out to be a number proportional to the square root of the kinetic energy of the wave (or particle, or quantum).

What happens when a wave like this hits an energy barrier, like the one caused by the electrostatic repulsion between nuclei? Well, the wave has not got enough energy to go over the barrier. If this were a classical particle, say a golf ball running up a hill on a golf course, that would be the end of the story. The ball would run up the hill, slowing down as kinetic energy was converted into potential energy. At some point the kinetic energy runs out, the ball stops and rolls back again.

But if it is a quantum golf ball, it obeys Schrödinger’s equation. It is described by a wave oscillating with the exponential of i times the square root of the energy, E, multiplied by the distance x. At the point where the classic golf ball stops, E becomes zero, and then negative. The square root of a negative number gives you another imaginary number, another i. This multiplies the i we already have, gives a negative-but-real number, and turns the exponential from being an oscillation into being an exponential decay!

This means the probability of finding the golf ball (which is determined by the wavefunction) drops rapidly, but is not zero. So if the hill is not infinitely high or infinitely thick (few are) there is a small probability, the tail of the exponent, that the ball will make through to the other side, as though it has tunnelled through.

In summary

Quantum tunnelling is real. It is an important factor in many physical phenomena, such as the rate of nuclear fusion, many chemical reactions, and a lot of technology (scanning tunnelling microscopy is a favourite of mine, but enough for now.) There is even a possibility that the universe itself might at some point tunnel through to a lower energy state, depending on what the mass of the Higgs boson is exactly. The maths we use to understand quantum tunnelling involves connecting oscillating trigonometric functions to exponentials, via imaginary numbers, and plugging it all into Schrödinger’s equation. And it works.

Whether controlled fusion will ever work, of course, remains to be seen.

¹ The force that holds nuclei together despite the electrostatic repulsion between the protons they contain.

² If they aren’t going too fast.

³ Yes, the cat guy.

Jon Butterworth has written a book about being involved in the discovery of the Higgs boson, Smashing Physics, available here . Some interesting events where you might be able to hear him talk about it etc are listed here. Also, Twitter.

October 21, 2014
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Quantum Physics made simple by a Pinay physicist

Jacquiline Romero obtained her undergraduate and masters physics degrees from the University of the Philippines. She is currently a physicist at the University of Glasgow, where she obtained her Ph.D. and does quantum entanglement experiments using light. The author thanks Edward Carlo Samson for suggesting the Sean Carroll post, and Beatriz Torre for filtering through “quantum” Google search results. 

October 21, 2014
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Quantum Break : sortie en septembre 2015, pendant une grosse rentrée Xbox …

Nous sommes actuellement en plein dans la période fournie en grosses sorties, mais cela n’empêche pas certains de penser déjà à l’horizon 2015. C’est notamment le cas du souvent très informé shinobi602, qui a récemment déclaré que Microsoft allait envoyer du lourd en fin d’année prochaine en matière d’exclusivités. Il s’appuie sur ses sources.

Hmm, Microsoft va faire fort lors de la prochaine saison estivale. Je sais des choses connues et inconnues…

En filigrane, shinobi602 parle des titres qui ne seront disponibles que sur Xbox One, dans le sillage de Halo 5: Guardians ou encore Rise of the Tomb Raider. Mais, plus spécifiquement, il a indiqué que Quantum Break, le nouveau bébé de Remedy (Max Payne, Alan Wake), visait un lancement en septembre 2015. En revanche, il faudra sans doute attendre un peu avant de voir Crackdown.

Par ailleurs, l’intéressé a expliqué que l’actualité Sony Computer Entertainment ne serait pas en reste non plus, avec une bataille qui s’annonce donc encore plus disputée que cette année. Tant mieux pour les joueurs.

October 21, 2014
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MicroSeismic Announces Release of PermIndex(TM)

HOUSTON, TX–(Marketwired – Oct 9, 2014) – MicroSeismic, Inc. (MicroSeismic) announced today the release of PermIndex™, a proprietary microseismic-based permeability tool to maximize recovery. PermIndex provides permeability estimates for each frac stage and data-driven constraints to reservoir simulation to help operators improve production forecasting and estimated ultimate recovery (EUR).

PermIndex provides estimates of bulk permeability using the radial pressure fronts of microseismic events during hydraulic fracturing to calculate effective system permeability. The new Permeability Scalar and Production Productivity Log are included in the PermIndex service and both are available on a stage-by-stage basis.

“For the first time, operators have a tool to understand the reservoir permeability on a stage-by-stage basis without needing to run a production log, saving time and money. PermIndex enables operators to improve production forecasting and get earlier assessments of the estimated ultimate recovery (EUR). This information can be used to determine future well treatments, such as refrac’ing or in-fill drilling and to maximize production and recovery from each well,” said Sudhendu “Kash” Kashikar, Vice President Completions Evaluation, MicroSeismic.

Permeability is one of the most important parameters, and yet one of the most difficult to obtain, for reservoir simulation history matching and computation of effective drainage volume. 

The Permeability Scalar captures the fracture intensity at any given point in space, providing a realistic estimate of variations in system permeability in the volume impacted by the hydraulic fracturing process. The Production Productivity Log, combined with Permeability Scalar, allows the reservoir engineer to quickly and accurately achieve history matching with estimation of drainage volume and EUR. 

MicroSeismic, Inc. is an oilfield services company providing microseismic-based Completions Evaluation Services in eighteen countries. Founded in 2003, MicroSeismic is the leading provider of microseismic monitoring activity utilizing surface, near-surface and downhole arrays. The company continually pushes the boundaries of new technology and delivers services that allow oil and gas companies to gauge the quality of completions, improve production, and reduce costs. 

For more information visit:

*MicroSeismic, Inc. trademarks are registered marks in the USA, Canada and other countries.