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Superbomb ignites science dispute (Got Hafnium?) ^ | 9/27/03 | Keay Davidson - SF Chronicle

Posted on 09/27/2003 10:05:09 PM PDT by NormsRevenge

Edited on 04/13/2004 2:44:05 AM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]

The Pentagon's pursuit of a new kind of nonnuclear super-weapon has sparked a behind-the-scenes revolt among its elite scientific advisers, some of whom reject the scheme as pseudoscience.

The military's goal is to develop a bomb that might be far more powerful than existing conventional weapons of the same size. Precisely targeted, such a weapon could take out targets -- such as underground caverns that conceal weapons of mass destruction -- without posing the severe political risks of using nuclear bombs.

(Excerpt) Read more at ...

TOPICS: Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Government; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: armsrace; bomb; darpa; dispute; gammarayweapons; hafnium; hipp; isomer; miltech; nuclear; realscience; science; superbomb; superweapons; usdoe; ut; utah
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1 posted on 09/27/2003 10:05:09 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
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To: NormsRevenge
but...but...what about photon torpedoes?? and light sabers??? what about them???!!!!
2 posted on 09/27/2003 10:10:13 PM PDT by ahadams2
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To: NormsRevenge
Although Herrmannsfeldt regards claims for hafnium-178's super-energy powers as nonsense, he fears that other nations will take them seriously, triggering a new arms race.

Lets get this straight, he says they wont work, but he worries that other nations will build them.
3 posted on 09/27/2003 10:10:39 PM PDT by Husker24
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To: ahadams2
I wanted to field entire divisions of Mech Warriors!
4 posted on 09/27/2003 10:12:04 PM PDT by GeronL (Deja Geron)
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To: NormsRevenge
So, has anyone actually gotten ahold of a dental x-ray machine and tried to duplicate the original work? Or have they all just followed the theory - with wildly different equipment - and failed to reproduce it?

It may well be that there is something specific to the equipment Collins was using.
5 posted on 09/27/2003 10:12:32 PM PDT by swilhelm73
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To: NormsRevenge
6 posted on 09/27/2003 10:12:59 PM PDT by kimosabe31
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To: GeronL
sounds like a plan! when you've worked out the details let me know - I've always thought the MechWarrior idea was a major military breakthrough simply waiting for technology to let it happen.

7 posted on 09/27/2003 10:14:56 PM PDT by ahadams2
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To: blam; Physicist; Myrddin
Science ping. (Let me know what you bright guys decide.)
8 posted on 09/27/2003 10:17:35 PM PDT by Travis McGee (----- -----)
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To: ahadams2
Well, we have to give them hermetically sealed polytanium armor, and they have to have those 100mm guided mortars and the power cells that keeps them in the field for up to a year without a recharge.

I think we should outfit most of them with twin 120mm turrets off of the outmoded M1A2's and some should have 100mm gatlin cannons.

But this might take a while....

9 posted on 09/27/2003 10:18:02 PM PDT by GeronL (Deja Geron)
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To: Travis McGee
I wouldn't know halfnium from sleepium
10 posted on 09/27/2003 10:19:10 PM PDT by GeronL (Deja Geron)
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To: NormsRevenge
Collins himself has a weighty reputation. A decade earlier, the Texas Academy of Sciences had named him "Distinguished Texas Scientist" of the year for his research on high-energy lasers.

That title and a $1.00 will get you a cup of coffee any place in town.

If Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore National Labs can't verify his experiment then we damned sure don't need to be wasting any more money on the effort.

11 posted on 09/27/2003 10:19:41 PM PDT by LPM1888 (Freedom begins when you tell Mrs Grundy to go fly a kite)
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To: GeronL
oh man, I want the pods filled with armor piercing rockets - you know, and the energy beam weapons that can melt an opponent's kneecap at a mile and half distance...yeah! now we're talkin'!
12 posted on 09/27/2003 10:25:25 PM PDT by ahadams2
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The links are dead in the following info posting FRom Wikipedia... It comes in thin rolls so you can use it in lieu of tinfoil if so needed.


FRom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Lutetium - Hafnium - Tantalum
Name, Symbol, Number Hafnium, Hf, 72
Chemical series Transition metals
Group, Period, Block 4 (IVB), 6 , d
Density, Hardness 13310 kg/m3, 5.5
Appearance grey steel
Atomic Properties
Atomic weight 178.49 amu
Atomic radius (calc.) 155 (208) pm
Covalent radius 150 pm
van der Waals radius no data
Electron configuration [Xe]4f14 5d2 6s2
e- 's per energy level 2, 8, 18, 32, 10, 2
Oxidation state (Oxide) 4 (amphoteric)
Crystal structure Hexagonal
Physical Properties
State of matter solid
Melting point 2506 K (4051 °F)
Boiling point 4876 K (8317 °F)
Molar volume 13.44 ×10-3 m3/mol
Heat of vaporization 575 kJ/mol
Heat of fusion 24.06 kJ/mol
Vapor pressure 0.00112Pa at 2500K
Speed of sound 3010 m/s at 293.15 K
Electronegativity 1.3 (Pauling scale)
Specific heat capacity 140 J/(kg*K)
Electrical conductivity 3.12 106/m ohm
Thermal conductivity 23 W/(m*K)
1st ionization potential 658.5 kJ/mol
2nd ionization potential 1440 kJ/mol
Most Stable Isotopes
iso NA half-life DM DE MeV DP
172Hf {syn.} 1.87 y ε 0.350 172Lu
174Hf 0.162% 2 E15 y α 2.495 170Yb
176Hf 5.206% Hf is stable with 104 neutrons
177Hf 18.606% Hf is stable with 105 neutrons
178Hf 27.297% Hf is stable with 106 neutrons
179Hf 13.629% Hf is stable with 107 neutrons
180Hf 35.1% Hf is stable with 108 neutrons
182Hf {syn} 9 E6 y β 0.373 182Ta
SI units & STP are used except where noted.
Hafnium is a chemical element in the periodic table that has the symbol Hf and atomic number 72. A lustrous, silvery gray tetravalent transition metal, hafnium resembles zirconium chemically and is found in zirconium minerals. Hafnium is used in tungsten alloys in filaments and electrodes and also acts as a neutron absorber in nuclear control rods.

Table of contents

Notable Characteristics

This is a shiny silvery, ductile metal that is corrosion resistant and chemically similar to zirconium. The properties of hafnium are markedly affected by zirconium impurities and these two elements are amongst the most difficult to separate. The only notable difference between them is their density (zirconium is about half as dense as hafnium).

Hafnium carbide is the most refractory binary compound known and hafnium nitride is the most refractory of all known metal nitrides with a melting point of 3310 °C). This metal is resistant to concentrated alkalis, but halogens react with it to form hafnium tetrahalides. At higher temperatures hafnium reacts with oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, boron, sulfur, and silicon.

The nuclear isomer Hf-178-2m is also a source of energetic gamma rays, and is being studied as a possible power source for gamma ray lasers.


Hafnium is used to make nuclear control rods, such as those found in nuclear submarines because of its ability to absorb neutrons (its thermal neutron absorption cross section is nearly 600 times that of zirconium), excellent mechanical properties and exceptional corrosion-resistance properties. Other uses;


Hafnium (Latin Hafnia for "Copenhagen") was discovered by Dirk Coster and Georg von Hevesy in 1923 in Copenhagen, Denmark. Soon after, the new element was predicted to be associated with zirconium by using the Bohr theory and was finally found in zircon through X-ray spectroscope analysis in Norway.

It was separated from zirconium through repeated recrystallization of double ammonium or potassium fluorides by Jantzen and von Hevesey. Metallic hafnium was first prepared by Anton Eduard van Arkel and Jan Hendrik deBoer by passing the tetraiodide vapor over a heated tungsten filament.


Hafnium is found combined in natural zirconium compounds but it is never found as a free element in nature. Minerals that contain zirconium, such as alvite [(Hf, Th, Zr)SiO4 H2O], thortveitite and zircon (ZrSiO4), usually contain 1 and 5 percent hafnium. Hafnium and zirconium have nearly identical chemistry, which makes the two difficult to separate. About half of all hafnium metal manufactured is produced by a by-product of zirconium refinement. This is done through reducing hafnium tetrachloride with magnesium or sodium in the Kroll Process.


Care needs to be taken when machining hafnium because when it is divided into fine particles, it is pyrophoric and can ignite spontaneously in air. Compounds that contain this metal are rarely encountered by most people and the pure metal is not normally toxic but all its compounds should be handled as if they are toxic (although there appears to be limited danger to exposed individuals).
13 posted on 09/27/2003 10:27:44 PM PDT by NormsRevenge (Burning Clinton's Britches Since 1998)
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To: ahadams2
I just mentioned the heavier weapons, I forgot to mention the constellation of low orbit geo-sync satellites (don't tell me thats impossible! =o) ) that will allow analysts in the Satellite Command Center (SatCom) to direct the guided mortars from a Mech without the driver having to do anything. They will also keep him informed of all enemy activity from their eyes in the sky.

The Mechs will have unguided rockets, 20mm cannons, 7.62 machine guns, grenade launchers, anti-aircraft missiles and they will also carry a couple of UAV's to find the bad guys if the satellites are impaired.

The things might be 20 feet tall but the skin absorbs heat and changes color to match the terrain of course. We're still working on the laser weapons.

14 posted on 09/27/2003 10:31:22 PM PDT by GeronL (Deja Geron)
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To: Husker24
Dumkopf! Venn Herr Doktor Hermannsfeldt speaks, you do nicht talk. You listen only. Schweinhund. Silence or your relatifs in Chermany vill suffer. Alle ist klarr?
15 posted on 09/27/2003 10:31:23 PM PDT by Kenny Bunk
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To: NormsRevenge
I guarantee that the US defense research community is welcomming the skepticism. It only disinvites other capable researchers from investigating what might potentially be a breakthrough. Even if Jason's recommendation is officially taken, there is a budget for this type of thing.
16 posted on 09/27/2003 10:32:44 PM PDT by Flightdeck
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To: ahadams2
did I mention that we'll carry them across the ocean aboard the Jetships? These ships have no propellers, they have several jet engines to propel them faster than anything on the water, they are heavily armed and carry a large number of the huge Mechs. =o)

Jetships have no open deck, they look like a smaller version of a Trek saucer section.

17 posted on 09/27/2003 10:33:42 PM PDT by GeronL (Deja Geron)
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To: LPM1888
Actually, that award will guarantee you some good funding for several years. Texas has some very, very, good laboratories also.
18 posted on 09/27/2003 10:34:51 PM PDT by Flightdeck
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To: All
One possible way would involve bombarding elements in a giant particle accelerator, then developing a tedious process for extracting the hafnium-178 nuclear isomer.


Let's see, where can we find a rather large partical accelerator... hummm... oh yea, TEXA... oops, no, that got pi$$ed away.

Oh well.

19 posted on 09/27/2003 10:35:07 PM PDT by TLI (...........ITINERIS IMPENDEO VALHALLA..........)
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To: Travis McGee; GeronL
I am reminded of the Admiral during WW II who when asked about the atomic bomb working said "As an expert in muntions it will never work" Dang I wish I could remember his name, IIRC he was FDR's aide.

For a wee bit of education, and a grin or two, try this...


alfa6 ;>}

20 posted on 09/27/2003 10:43:00 PM PDT by alfa6 (GNY Highway's Rules: Improvise; Adapt; Overcome)
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