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In the legendary Indian rope trick, a fakir, would climb a rope seemingly anchored to a point in the sky. Jack in the Beanstalk had a similar idea. Now one spacefaring nation plans to carry out its own version of the mythical trick but on a much bigger scale. The Japanese have announced that they have set aside $10 billion to develop a space elevator.

The notion originally conceived by the Russians involves putting a space station in geosynchronous orbit over a fixed spot on Earth from which a cable would be attached. Freight destined for orbit, or deeper space, would be car­ried up and down the over-25,000-mile cable-length on special vehicles built for the task.

The idea was mentioned by science fiction writer Arthur Clark in a novel, but the Japanese are the first to put seri­ous money into it. The big problem is making the cable strong enough, but it is now believed that carbon nanotubes could do the job. Even so, many major problems remain like getting all the components into orbit.

With a growing population and limited horizontal space, the Japanese, in the last few years, have become increas­ingly interested in ways to solve the growing challenges confronting them. One possible approach could be going ver­tical. Already, their designers have been planning buildings and developments reaching miles into the sky. For them, a space elevator could be the ultimate in vertical development. Instead of skyscrapers, could we be looking forward to spacescrapers?


It won’t be long before many of the things that we use every day, including cars, planes and many appliances, will be much lighter and a lot stronger than anything we can now imagine. All that could happen because of something called bucky paper now under development at Florida State University.

Thanks to the work of Ben Wang and his associates, the new material, which is 500 times stronger and 10 time lighter than steel, is close to production. It’s all based on nanoscience, which is based on engineering at the sub­atomic level. In this case, carbon is made to form molecules called nanotubes which are ultimately formed into super strong materials.

The source of Buckypaper was discovered unexpectedly over 20 years ago by scientists trying to understand how stars make carbon. Their experiment produced a ball of 60 carbon atoms in a structure once promoted by architect Buckminster Fuller which came to be called the bucky ball. Carbon nanotubes of bucky balls, it turned out, would produce a film, later called bucky paper. The paper can be layered and pressed together to form immensely strong composite materials.

Scientists say the new material could be game-changing—revolutionary—making possible machinery and air­planes beyond anything we have seen so far.

The Father of Sonofusion Turns Up Heat

Rusi Taleyarkhan, the Purdue nuclear engineering professor, who startled the world with his claims for tabletop nu­clear fusion, has cried foul in the battle against his detractors and he is taking his case to court. Accusing two fellow Purdue University professors of defamation, Taleyarkhan in October filed a complaint with an Illinois superior court charging Lefteri Tsoukalas and Tatjana Jevremovic of making false and malicious public statements which led to “a successful campaign to ruin Taleyarkhan and his sonofusion research.”

Sonofusion was first described in a paper which Taleyarkhan published in the Journal Science in 2002. With a rel­atively small device, he said he was able to collapse tiny bubbles of Acetone using ultrasound. The result was very high temperatures and, said Taleyarkhan, nuclear fusion (See A.R. #34, “Sonofusion”). Just as with “cold fusion” years earlier when two professors—Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischman—at the University of Utah had reported on a method of using electrified palladium rods in heavy water to produce fusion, the scientific establishment— committed as it was to high-energy, and very expensive, hot fusion—went ballistic. As has been reported by the late Dr. Eugene Mallove, Jeane Manning, and others in these pages and elsewhere, cold fusion was misrepresented and its inventors slandered in a firestorm of criticism which continues to this day. Recent research by the U.S. Navy and oth­ers has now largely vindicated much of the “cold fusion” idea.

Against Taleyarkhan, who was a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratories when he made his discovery, a Pur-due panel made a number of charges including that he had falsified his research and that he had falsely claimed his research had been replicated. He was subsequently disciplined. Now Taleyarkhan has upped the ante and a civil court will get to decide who is right and who is not.

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