THE FUSOR REACTOR: Philo Farnsworth

Both were extensions of a wonderful dream, which had emerged as social expressions from that mysterious source of all dreams. While every youngster had visionary hopes of becoming a space cadet, it was patently obvious that the “process of selection” was a military one. One had to be a military man to become a spaceman. Space belonged to the military, to men, and not to American Society at large. As the American Space program made its progressive forays against Soviet space technology, most Americans continued their lives with other futuristic visions in mind. The progressive movement of space endeavors, from social expectations to military achievements, was accompanied by a conjugate movement of social attentions from space to earth once again. It was a disappointment, which has had no representatives; a subliminal hurt which altered the dream life of society forever.

This loss of social focus on space travel came back to haunt the space industries. It prompted the new and more socially accessible “space shuttle” project, which seemed to offer, “all common citizens” a chance, however slim, of becoming “space cadets”. But the race for Hot Fusion gripped the public with a more certain hope, an earth-fixed hope that was completely accessible and commercially valuable. Common citizens could relate more to a project, which promised new and clean energy sources, and all the ancillary promises, which accompany any such real technological revolution.

People knew that Fusion Energy would completely revolutionize our world. It would have in fact. They waited for its appearance, a lovely dawn on a clean and perfect horizon. Fusion was the Future. The word from researchers, and the promise which they held out to society, was that nothing could stop the forthcoming development of a fusion reactor system. Hot Fusion research had a counterpoise upon which it readily found funding and public support during this time period.

Fusion was the nuclear alternative to uranium technology. Atomic uranium. It was a disappointing phrase replete with dreaded associations. Disappointing because its very mention once filled the mind with imaginary force. The dream of atomic energy was once wonderful. Visionary. Uranium, an earth metal. A power, which could take us to the stars.

The quest for atomic energy began long before the War, gaining dream strength in science gazettes and in a hundred small laboratories the world over. There were even private researchers who experimented with uranium ore, managing to obtain strange energy releases from the minerals. Some took uranium ores, right from the ground, placed them in low-pressure gas chambers, and applied high voltage electrical currents to them. This released tremendous amounts of energy, which greatly exceeded the applied currents. In those days, the sense of the phrase “Atomic” was thoroughly different. And dream suffusions provide the atmospheres, which flood phrases. Atomic energy had a “golden” radiant sense to its mention. Atomic Energy was a phrase first termed by Dr. Gustav Le Bon, the Belgium physicist who preceded all the familiar names having to do with conventional atomic physics. Dr. Le Bon designed small atomic reactors, which engaged photonuclear reactions.

As Dr. Le Bon envisioned atomic energy, it was a force, which could be used as desired with no deadly after effects. He had released tremendous amounts of photonuclear products in his simple reactors with no harmful after effects, and no waste products. He did not employ uranium or any of the heavy metals to release his energies. He did not employ fission reactions. The folklore surrounding atomic energy began with his writings. How the ideas were twisted into considerations of the heavy metals and of fission reactions was the result of work done by the Curies thereafter.

The words “Uranium” and “Radium” were interchangeably used in every science fiction serial of the 1930’s. Popular fiction, operating entirely in the dream current of archetypes, had so glamorized atomic energy that none believed an atomic weapon possible. Heroic and fictional science figures utilized these elements in wondrous ways for the benefit of humanity. How they ever could have been used in a bomb was yet inconceivable by the vast majority of readers. Atomic energy had a golden aura, an enveloping halo of wonder. “Atomic” was the future hope. It was the means by which unlimited exploits could be secured by human effort. A new Golden Age would begin, one in which energy would play the major role.

Atomic Power would help humanity to tame the entire planet. Endless supplies of food and water could be obtained by the limitless energies derived from radium or uranium. Travel to any point in the world would never be problematic. Power to delve into the sea or ground to any depth would be secured. New alloys, new medicines, new energy applications would convert the world into the future. A golden future. After these wonders had been achieved, humanity would move out into the sea of space, a new Age of Discovery having begun.

Foreseen and told by H.G. Wells in his short masterpiece “Shapes of Things To Come”, the reality was indeed manifesting among certain inventors the world over. The names Paneth, Hubbard, Winkelman, McElrath, and Burke were among those who actually obtained significant amounts of electrical energy from small amounts of radium and natural ores of uranium. These systems were safe. They utilized the natural radioactive decay process of their source matter, converting the energetic outflow of particles and fields into electricity. In numerous cases, the electricity obtained exhibited strange and uncommon characteristics. It was imagined by some that new charged particles might be responsible for the brilliant cold light obtained from these devices.

Progress in these primary atomic “generators” evidenced the dream materialization process. The new world was coming into being. But, simultaneous progress in another vein of study brought about instabilities in the technological expression. While attempting to accelerate radioactive decay, physicists discovered fission reactions. Hailed by academician as the “real atomic power”, most recognized a fundamental danger in this research. Natural radioactive decay propelled enough energy, said private researchers, to supply the world for millennia. Atomic Generators simply required a simple means for extracting the available power. No other technique would be necessary.