The Flywheel

Next Meeting: Friday, January 14

High Schools that Work

Students in an auto shop

Professor David Stern of UC Berkeley, and Richmond Rotarian Mike Aaronian (WCCUSD) will describe career academies, a model for high school reform that is reshaping high schools nationwide, across California, and here in Richmond.

The effectiveness of career academies rests on three key features: small group learning environments, coursework that prepares students for both college and careers, and learning outside the classroom.


Meeting of January 7, 2011

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Herb Cole led us in the invocation.  Henry Kelman opined that incoming Governor Jerry Brown plans to create a split tax role for business and residential properties will drive the other half of the business population out of the state that not has already left.

Rotarians with Guests

  • Jerry Hatchett brought the CFO for Sims Metals Western Region to lunch today.
  • Henry Moe brought a group of science students from Salesian High School to lunch
  • A group of students from Richmond High School were also in attendance to hear the science presentation. 


  • We just learned that longtime member Ted Smith passed away on Sunday, January 9. He will be missed by all who knew him. Many would agree with Josh Genser, who noted that he would remember Ted “...for his gravelly voice, cheerful cynicism and generosity.” We are not aware of any plans for a memorial service at the time of this writing. If and when they are made available, expect an email with that information.
  • Erle Brown reminded us of the Crab Fee, on February 5th at Salesian High School. He passed around the sign up sheet and asked everybody to use the website to buy tickets online (see left column), which makes David Browns job easier. The Crab Feed will be held in Salesian cafeteria like last year.  
  • Alan, our fearless president, reminded us that we are taking a tour of the Cheveron Refinery instead of our regular meeting on 2/4/11.

Happy and Sad Dollars & Recognitions:

  • Pam Jones recognized here birthday today and make a donation.
  • Marku told us about being stuck on the grapevine for 11 hours.
  • Mark Howe donated $5 happy dollars to celebrate the arrival of the Americas Cup to San Francisco.  He has formed a group that is trying to attract Americas Cup Activites to port facilities in Richmond.  

Norm's Nonsense

A young woman sitting on a bus was cooing to her baby, when a drunk staggered aboard and down the aisle. He looked down and said, "Lady, that is the ugliest baby I have ever seen." The woman burst into tears, and the driver pulled over to the side of the road and threw the drunk off. He then said to the lady, "Look, I don't know what that bum said to you but to help calm you down, I'm going to get you a cup of tea."

Off he went, coming back shortly with a cup of tea. "Now calm down, lady," soothed the driver, "I brought you a cup of nice hot tea, and I even got a banana for your pet monkey."


PROGRAM of January 7

3-d glasses

The Future is Fusion Power

The program speaker was Andy Bayramian, a recognized Ph.D. expert in spectroscopy and laser physics and a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility (NIF).

Standing in for scheduled speaker, Dr. Erik Storm, who took ill at the last minute, Andy used a stunning multimedia presentation to tell the story of NIF and the promise of laser-induced nuclear fusion as a viable source of clean-energy electric power for planet earth in the coming decades.

Fusion power diagram

Especially for those not able to attend the meeting on Friday, here’s a web site with lots of related information. Actually, everyone should check out the three-minute video clip that automatically starts upon opening the web page. There’s even a link for downloading a free iPhone app in order to stay in touch with updated NIF news, images, and videos.

For 50 years, it has been recognized that fusion energy provides a highly attractive theoretical solution to society's demand for energy at a scale that meets mankind’s long-term needs. But despite fusion's tantalizing benefits, it has been largely ignored in energy policy discussions because it is viewed as a technology too immature to affect energy production over the next few decades when it is most needed.

The folks at NIF now claim they are changing the fusion-as-immature-technology paradigm and offering a deliverable way forward. Since NIF ground-breaking occurred over 10 years ago, scientists and engineers have been working successfully toward demonstration over the next year or so of controlled fusion ignition as a prelude to achieving capabilities for large-scale, global deployment of fusion-fired, giga-watt electricity generating plants over the next 3-5 decades.

Energy from nuclear fission (which currently powers nuclear reactors on land and sea) is derived from the splitting apart of heavy atoms like uranium. Energy from nuclear fusion (which powers the sun and other stars) is derived from the coming together of light atoms like the isotopes of hydrogen under extreme temperature and pressure.

After NIF, there will be LIFE, an acronym for Laser Inertial Fusion Energy/Engine, which will offer

  • A sustainable, carbon-free source of base-load electricity (energy from the fusion-able hydrogen isotopes in a cup of seawater is equivalent to thousands of pounds of uranium and several trainloads full of coal)
  • Security of supply (reducing our reliance on foreign oil imports)
  • No enrichment, no reprocessing, and no high-level radioactive waste
  • Global commercial competitiveness from a U.S.-led solution
  • Compatibility with existing grid infrastructure
  • Intrinsic safety

In a laser fusion power plant (LIFE), fuel pellets will be rapidly injected into an interaction chamber where precisely coordinated laser beams provide very brief but intense temperatures and pressures that induce nuclear fusion and produce pulses of fusion energy that heat a blanket of material surrounding the chamber. The fusion heat is then transferred to a power conversion system to produce electricity. This all works because nuclear fusion results in a slight loss of mass, which is converted to output energy (E = mc2) that exceeds input energy.

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has called LIFE a “holy cow game changer”. And to think we heard all about it here at Rotary!

- Rotating Editor, Tom Waller