Gordon McDowell is a pretty amazing guy. I “virtually” met Gordon when he stitched together several of the thorium-related Google Tech Talks into his first attempt at telling the thorium story, “LFTR in 25 minutes“. Now 25 minutes is a vast improvement over four hours, but Gordon wasn’t satisfied, so he got the story even tighter and created “LFTR in 16 minutes“.
“LFTR in 16″ is still the all-time most-viewed thorium-related video on YouTube, having been issued on November 16, 2009 and having been viewed over 100,000 times as of the writing of this article. But I think Gordon wanted to do better, which is when he started asking me about coming to Calgary so he could shoot some video. A couple of different opportunities didn’t work out, but then Gordon was able to suggest me as a speaker to the folks organizing the TEDxYYC conference held on April 1st this year, and I had a viable chance to come up to Calgary.
Coming to Calgary was a great experience and Gordon was a lot of the fun. He picked me up from the airport with a camera in his hand, but he was just getting started. He’d already mounted cameras on various fixtures in the airport and his friend and assistant Chelsea Pratchett was already filming too. I felt pretty conspicuous. But even that was just a warmup for when we get to the car. I almost felt like I was in the Ghostbusters’ car–this thing was decked out with so much audiovisual equipment. It took us 10 minutes just to get out of the parking garage; Gordon wanted to have all the cameras just right, and there were quite a few of them.
So we headed off to our first stop: Mount Royal University and a talk that Gordon had arranged for me to give to a class there. My slides were simply a set of introductory slides on LFTR technology and my speaking was entirely extemporaneous. Gordon had probably already told me about the meeting but I confess that I had not done any specific preparation. Well, Gordon was filming vigorously from a variety of locations and Chelsea was helping out too. Gordon got a lot of footage and has been working his magic on it for a number of weeks now, and he has released the entirety of the presentation under a Creative Commons license (which means you can use it too, under some restrictions):
Don’t be too afraid of the 97-minute length of the video. Gordon has cut all the “good parts” into an 8-minute introduction. You don’t think the creator of “LFTR in 16 minutes” would make you watch the whole thing, right? So if you want to watch it quick just watch for 8 minutes and if you find it gripping and fascinating as I’m sure you will you can watch the full thing!
Just about the moment we were finished it was time to go to the next meeting, but Gordon allowed me to get a bite to eat in the student cafeteria at MRU. Our next venue was really interesting: it was in the basement of a “hackers’ space” in urban Calgary called “Protospace”. I was feeling a lot better because I’d had something to eat and the group seemed pretty relaxed and informal. They told me I had two hours so I used a set of slides I had previously prepared for another group that was meant to describe my background and how I arrived at the point where I wanted to be a LFTR advocate and now a LFTR developer. I really enjoyed the chance to talk about my interest in the space program and other energy technologies like space solar power, OTEC, and fusion, and how aspects and disappointments of those technologies ultimately led me to focus whole-heartedly on thorium and the fluoride reactor.
Again, Gordon has been working on this footage for many weeks and has released it under a Creative Commons license. The first four minutes at the beginning are Gordon’s “good parts” cut, but the presentation itself is something that makes a lot more sense if you follow it from beginning to end. At 156 minutes that’s no small feat. I haven’t even watched it all the way to the end yet, and I gave the thing!
After the Protospace talk, Gordon took me to my hotel and I crashed pretty hard. The next day was TEDxYYC, and I was one of about a dozen speakers there. I met Jasmine Antonick, the conference’s organizer, and one of the first things she said to me was, “So you met Gordon, right? He’s pretty intense, huh?” She wasn’t surprised at all that Gordon had done all that filming but told me that the results would be brilliant–she’d seen Gordon’s work before. Gordon and Chelsea did a lot of filming at TEDxYYC all day too, and here’s the official result:
Thanks in large part to Gordon’s promotion and so many others, this video has been viewed almost 20,000 times! It’s only 10 minutes so you can watch it without giving up your weekend like the Protospace talk.
Thanks to Gordon for all his hard work in putting these together! I really, really appreciate it!
I really enjoyed the opportunity to be a part of Jim Puplava’s “Financial Sense Newshour” recently. Jim opened the interview with almost exactly the question I wanted to talk about: what are we going to do about our staggering dependence on fossil fuel?
Before I ever knew about thorium or LFTR, I would read about a lot of different energy technologies that promised to someday be 5% or 10% of our overall energy picture. I was always left wondering–what’s the 80% answer? What’s the 90% answer? What’s the technology that’s going to shoulder the burden of the planet’s energy needs into the future.
At one point I thought it was space solar power, but I was wrong. Later I thought it would be controlled thermonuclear fusion, but more education in that area left me highly doubtful. Ocean thermal-electric conversion looked very appealing, but it looked like is was only going to be a 5-10% type answer.
When I first read “Fluid Fuel Reactors” and learned about thorium and LFTR technology, it seemed like that was the “silver bullet” as Jim Puplava put it, but my own ignorance and fear of being wrong led me to second-guess my beliefs. That’s why I started working on a nuclear engineering degree. That’s why I wanted to get the scanned ORNL documents up on the Web and why I started to blog–to answer the simple question: is this as good as it looks to me?
I’m convinced now that it is.
I hope you enjoy the interview, which you can download in a variety of different audio files or read the transcript (but I think the audio versions are better).