Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Jobs Report

I really enjoy Bruce Sterling's blog on Wired, Beyond the Beyond. He has a way of succinctly connecting future dots that I envy, both for brevity, and relative ranking of trend/surprise importance, and also finds fun stuff that highlights the more unusual in trivial matters.

Atlantic Cities has the BLS's projected-10-years-out jobs report, and nifty maps to go with it.

(Provided, of course, the electrically-powered robots don't take over every job from us food-powered robots, as has been threatened by various magazines, expect growth in service industries and what they call now "creative class" jobs. I for one do not value a job changing old people's diapers in Arizona, but I suppose that's where it is all heading.

But still, my suspicion is one government agency is not sharing data with another (what? really? that happens?), as some of the regions projected for growth seem unreasonable and/or unsustainable.

So, the Southwest to boom with jobs? Really? Anyone notice that don't have any fucking water? And ain't gonna have no more water if things continue? Because the pattern, which, yes, can shift, tends towards everything getting increasingly arid west of the Mississippi.  Throw in a little sea level rise, and all those jobs projected for southwest Florida and the Gulf coast of Texas kind of head underwater.

So, it's early, and 2024 is still a far distant future to me.

Speaking of which, does anyone think ITER is going to be up and running by then?

There's an article in the New Yorker that shows just how daunting that task is, even when you throw in the old science joke of "As always, fusion is only thirty years away". But here is a task that is challenging even materials standards. From the article:
Depending on whom you talk to, the history of the central solenoid epitomizes either iter’s flaws or its ability to overcome them. From the start, the magnet’s technical requirements indicated that it would be extremely difficult to build. To prevent the solenoid from launching through the roof, a thousand and eighty screws must be fixed to the top and the bottom, to keep the stack in viselike compression. Moreover, niobium-3-tin is difficult to work with. It does not attain its superconducting properties until it is baked: cables made with strands of it must be coiled into a module, then heated for days in a custom-made furnace flooded with argon gas. The strands, each one less than a millimetre thick, are interwoven with copper. In the furnace, the metals bind into a fragile matrix that later cannot be flexed.
“The challenge for the central solenoid is that it has to ramp up every time you do a plasma shot, which is thousands of times during the lifetime of the machine—so you have to create a superconducting cable that can pulse tens of thousands of times without degrading, and that is very hard with niobium-3-tin,” an engineer who worked on the magnet told me. “It is a brittle material. How is it not going to become dust? With each pulse, you are literally breaking it, micro-fracturing it. So what is the solution? Don’t pulse so many times, or pulse with less energy. But you cannot do either. If you pulse with less energy, then you don’t get the heating that you need, and if you pulse fewer times then the life of the machine is shorter. So you are pushing up against the limit of what the material can do.”
Why even during the Manhattan Project, which, other than a certain amount of sheer dumb luck in casting the right allotrope of fissile plutonium, enigneers and physicists encountered no few materials issues. It was strictly a matter of engineering finesse.

My guess is, it will be considered a success, even though it is a monumental failure. But there is hope, and I suspect the rescue of fusion will come from a clever application of metamaterials.


  1. Lockheed got that compact high beta red't'roll in 2017

  2. Yeah, I'd forgotten about that. Point of the above New Yorker article is, time is running out, and if they don't have bottled star by 2024, they probably never will.