Things That Make Me Go “Wow”


Hello my fellow crumpteers

I bet you thought this was going to be yet another blog post featuring a tasty array of shirtless hawties didn’t you? You bunch of dirty old perves! Sadly for you the heat I am going to talk about today is  of the sort generated by BIG science. Secondly shirtless crumpets don’t make me go “wow” – as I am normally rendered incapable of normal cognition or speech. Anyhow I am going to out myself as a hopeless geek and admit that despite being a “bear of little brain” I find this stuff mind blowing. I’m writing about it because I want to get the very basics clear in my own head.  My ultimate goal is to be able to pick apart  factual inaccuracies in sci-fi films thus making myself a very annoying person.  At the very least I hope to enhance my enjoyment of Big Bang Theory (the TV show and the actual theory).

As Dadabs says - "they are pretty boys pretending to be nerds"

As Dadabs says – “they are pretty boys pretending to be nerds”

Let’s kick off with nuclear fusion

We all know what nuclear fission is right? It’s splitting heavy atoms in order to release truck loads of energy in the form of heat. You know how Mother Nature’s a bitch? She doesn’t want us interfering with  atoms and there’s some nasty consequences involved. Firstly fission leads to radio active waste that stays live and dangerous for ridiculous lengths of time – like over 100,000 years. Scarily there is still no global agreement about the best way of dealing with it. In fact much of it is just sitting around in drums. Secondly the technology can be leveraged to build weapons. Thirdly no one wants another Chernobyl disaster. Finally there’s just not that much uranium around the place. Its estimated that at current rates of usage the supply will run out in 200 years*.

Uranium - looks innocent but its nasty shite man

Uranium – looks innocent but its nasty shite man

Nuclear fusion is a completely different ball game – its taking lighter atoms and joining them together as happens naturally inside stars. Its natural but that doesn’t mean its easy – far from it. Anyhow put simply the recipe is –  Take two different types of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium – if we are going to get finickity) and cook at over 100 million degrees for a few seconds. Viola! Remove  helium, some stray neutrons and an absolute shirt load of  energy from the oven.

The sweet thing is that the only byproduct is helium – no carbon emissions, no radio active waste!  If we can make this fly it will give us phenomenal bang for our buck as the process expected to give out 10x the energy that we put in. So IF we can get this thing to work, not only will all the world’s energy woes be solved but they’ll stay solved for hundreds of thousands of years. Heck the zombies will be using it come the zombie apocalypse.  The problem is as I have mentioned before that Mother Nature is a bitch. She really doesn’t like us human’s messing with the forces that bind atoms together and she’s made it extraordinarily difficult for us to squeeze our way in there.

It should be simple.(Shamelessly pinched from

It should be simple.(Shamelessly pinched from

To overcome the natural forces holding the nucleus of the hydrogen atoms together the gas has to be heated to around 150 million degrees. That’s wicked hot.  Its six times hotter than the core of the sun and almost as hot as Fassbender in the buff. Scientists haven’t perfected a way of getting the gas to those temperatures but they are working on it with lasers and magnetic fields. I’d suggest that they fill a cinema with middle aged women and show the Avengers movie.

The second problem is that there’s no material on earth that can contain this sort of heat – anything we can come up with  would instantly vaporize. I guess this explains why cinemas full of middle aged women watching the Avengers have simply disappeared.  To get around this minor inconvenience engineers are working on trapping the super hot gas within a doughnut shaped magnetic field which is imagined to look a bit like this.

That's one piping hot donut.

That’s one piping hot doughnut

The reactor also has to capture all those rogue neutrons spraying about. The best way to do it is with a “blanket” that covers the inner wall of the doughnut which will absorb the neutron blizzard and convert their energy into heat then electricity.  Holey Moley – isn’t it amazing that there are people  who can not only think of this stuff but can actually build it!

I cant wait to see how all this pans out. Unfortunately we won’t know if its practical until the 2030s and then it probably wont go mainstream until the 2050s. Luckily the best and brightest minds are currently working on it. CERN and the Large Hadron Collider may be getting all the limelight at the moment but there’s an even bigger project going on just to the south in Provence. Construction is beginning on the first commercial fusion reactor. The ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) is the world’s biggest scientific collaboration with contributions from 34 countries. (Only the International Space Station is bigger). Its also chewed through 13 bil pounds so far. Yet despite this epic outpouring of money, resources and man power we rarely hear about it in the mainstream media. Whats’ up with that?

The ITER blueprint

The ITER blueprint

Nuclear fusion – just one thing that is making me go “wow”.

What’s making you go “wow”?



*According to the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)

34 thoughts on “Things That Make Me Go “Wow”

  1. My big brother sent me this link the other day. This made me go wow. First, because it’s Carl Sagan and second, well just cos 🙂

    I have also heard Prof Cox reading this, which had a rather large wow factor.

  2. not your usual blog-post. 🙂
    totally what my 15 year old son wants to be involved in when he leaves school, so ‘way cool’ in this house.

  3. Yeah not your usual post… I guess when you googled ‘crumpy scientist’ nothing came up? Still I enjoyed it all the same… Fascinating shiz.

  4. Love it. As I said on FB that scientist on Adam Hills last night made me go “wow” with his comments about dark energy and the universe.

    • Thanks for the tip off Leanne – I need to check this out. Adam Hills is a delicious Aussie crumpet with vegemite and he was talking about science! An unbeatable combo!

  5. Pretty much all science and technology makes me go wow – and animals. So fascinating…and yet we humans? So short sighted…..hmmmm

  6. As a fellow science nerd can I just say… WOW! One day I will join you with that knowledge level to be able to pick sci-fi apart. I already google so much of the stuff they talk about on Stargate and its really quite fascinating once you start how much stuff has happened because of sci-fi and how much in old sci-fi is now actually possible and not just theory. Science rocks!

  7. Wow, Mumabs. Just wow. What makes me go wow? Well, it doesn’t yet, but when they master teleportation, that will be my ultimate WOW. No more traffic, no more cars, instantaneous travel to work. Just pop the kids into the teleporter and press the kindy button. Maybe we could teleport the kids’ clothes off and on? OK, it’s sci-fi – go for it, explain the scientific absurdity of my idea. Oh well, I can only dream…

  8. Sorry, this air head, bogan has nothing to add here, you smarty pants. Agree about Adam Hills though. Can you feature him in future crumpet post?

    • Smarty pants not so much – I got most of this from Nuclear Fusion for Dummies. Serious. Yes I can feature Adam Hills at some stage – Hot Aussie crumpet with vegemite 😉

  9. Fabulous stuff.

  10. I have no idea what you are talking about. *makes farting sounds with armpit*

  11. This stuff makes me go wow..when I am listening to someone talk about it. Can’t read it though…too many big words. I haven’t gots the concentration for that shiz

  12. Nice one Brenda. Way to lure us in with your pretend picture of people and then talk about stuff that explodes my humanities brain. No, really. Thank you. Actually, I think we may have achieved brain cell fusion – and created some new particulate matter where none existed previously. Well done nerdabulous!

  13. Bravo *gives standing ovation*! My older boys are both budding science geeks and are constantly pestering me to do experiments on weekends. They also LOVE to “blue-sky” about what new inventions might be possible in the future. So I’m going to show them this post, as you have really done such a marvellous job of explaining I couldn’t possibly top it!

  14. What is making me go wow is this blog post! Actually no I am speechless…I am very impressed. I don’t understand any of it but I am impressed you do. Love Big Bang Theory (even if they are pretty boys pretending to be nerds)

  15. Totally blissing out on the nerdness here – favourite post today.

  16. Wow! That’s some heavy stuff. Not sure my brain can cope with that today. Although that Uranium stuff sure is pretty …

  17. Ah, trying to get a private audience with Brian Cox when he tours are we? 😉 I was never good at science at school and I think it might be because I actually quite liked the ‘wow’ factor. I kind of like the not-knowing – just letting the magic happen! Well, that’s my excuse anyway.

  18. “Almost as hot as Fassbender in the buff” – Bahaha!
    It’s not your usual post but it still has that Mumabulous signature, scrumptious crumpet style writing 😛

  19. This is an awesome explanation and I totally love the funny bits. Am a bit of a nerd and most science stuff makes me go ‘wow’, but humour adds a quality science often lacks!

  20. I’m a sucker for learning amazing stuff, and this is fascinating!! I also love that awesome doco about the black hole by Mr Computer, aka Stephen Hawking, it was fabulous! Thanks for the brain workout, now must go change a nappy 😦 x

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