I simply had to blog about this one, folks, and when you read it, you'll see why. Mr. V.T, to whom we are grateful for giving us a heads up on this one, sent this article, and I must confess, when I saw the title of the article, I immediately opened the email and read it, rather than merely quickly scanning it and then sorting it into one of my "blogging boxes" that I use to schedule blogs (in case you're wondering, by the way, they are "quarter final, technical, and semi-final" with a recently added folder, "final", for the rare cases of articles that go straight to the top. This was one of those):
Now, when I read the article, I was immediately grabbed by this picture:
Now, patience, we'll get to why I'm calling this the "Lockheed Gizmo" in a moment. But for those of you who are aware of thee story, or who followed my last blog about the Lockheed fusion reactor story, you'll recall that I mentioned the name of Philo Farnsworth, the quirky American genius who invented television (well, at least, in this country), and who also pursued fusion. Farnsworth actually patented a few devices, and claimed in the mid-1960s to have achieved a sustained reaction in one of them for a few seconds. This he claimed at a press conference, and then he, and his patents, were quietly shuffled off the stage, and the patent owner, IT&T, never talked about them again.
Now, note that the article is calling the above picture a "conceptual image" of what the Lockheed device might look like. And if you look closely at the picture, for you Farnsworth fans out there, it does look suspiciously like his Fusor patent, awarded on June 4, 1963:
Farnsworth's 1963 Fusor Patent
Similarly, the dimensions of the Farnsworth device were said to be "a little larger than a softball,". OK, I thought,, so some artist out there knows about Farnsworth, and did this "conceptual image." But then I watched the video linked at the bottom of the article, in which Lockheed technicians are interviewed against a backdrop of equipment looking very much like "the conceptual image" and very much like Farnsworth's "Fusor" scaled up a bit.
So what may we be looking at here? The first thought that came to my mind is we were looking at carefully contrived disinformation (with high production value, after all, look at the video). How likely is Lockheed going to disclose any super-secret fusion technology right in front of the camera? Not very. So why the allusions to Farnsworth? Perhaps to deflect attention away from the concepts they're really working on; after all, Farnsworth's device is a hot fusion device, using a (then) novel method of containment. In other words, perhaps it was all, as I originally hypothesized, a clever bit of distraction from the other fusion story at the time: the University of Uppsala and University of Bologna's studies of Dr Andrea Rossi's ECAT "cold fusion" device, studies which concluded explicitly that nuclear reactions were occurring in his device.
But the other possibility is that perhaps, like all disinformation, the Lockheed story has some kernel of truth to it: "look at us, we got this crazy thing to work!" And in today's highly charged geopolitical tensions, one has to entertain speculations of all sorts, and here's a whopper-doozie: suppose one got such a device to work at various scales, from the small to very large, and suppose one allowed the containment on a large device suddenly to fail. One and the same technology - always under the aegis of that hugely subjunctive "if" - could be a new energy technology and, for all intents and purposes, a "clean" hydrogen bomb, without the nasty fallout effects of the atom bomb that is normally required as the "fuse" in thermonuclear bombs.
The bottom line here is, by releasing this video and this image with the clear resemblance to Farnsworth's concepts of half a century ago, Lockheed is playing, at the minimum, a clever game, leaving one guessing what the needle in the fusion haystack is, for note, as yet, they have released no hard data or conceptual details, other than these clear allusions to Farnsworth.
See you on the flip side.