More Bang for the Puck by Jeremy Whitlock
DEEP RIVER, Ont. – Scientists are reporting the first evidence of fusion energy in the surface of a hockey rink. Unlike traditional fusion research requiring multi-billion-dollar machines, this breakthrough appears to involve nothing more complex than a Zamboni and a pair of skates.
The discovery took place in this tiny, unassuming burgh, two hours west of Ottawa. Its arena is like thousands of other small-town rinks across the country, except for one unique feature: the ice is made from heavy water.
"This stuff freezes at plus-four degrees", says the rink jockey on duty, who asked not to be named, "so it's, like, good ice." While heavy water is found in regular water at roughly one part in 7000, nobody seems to know where the 100% heavy water for the Deep River hockey rink came from.
Besides its attractive ice-making characteristics, heavy water is also important for its "deuterium" content, a common fusion fuel. The arena's connection with the energy source of the future was discovered quite by accident, however.
For years it has been known that excessive collisions with ice rinks cause people to see tiny flashes of light, an effect called Lindros-luminescence. The effect is often accompanied by a persistent ringing in the ears.
What appears to be happening at the Deep River rink, however, are collisions many times more energetic than normal, and involving heavy ice. Scientists suggest that the high localized pressures are sufficient firstly to heat a microscopic layer of ice into plasma, and then to squeeze together enough deuterium nuclei in that plasma to release fusion energy.
What causes the more energetic collisions in Deep River? The answer is not clear, but may be related to the higher-than-normal number of adults playing beginner hockey in this town.
"Woo-ee, do we get some spectacular falls," says the organizer of one local team, the Provocateurs, who asked not to be named. "A lot of self-inflicted, high-momentum kind of things. First we took the sparks and stuff for granted, but then it seemed a bit much, even for us. Plus the craters were a bit suspicious, not to mention annoying."
Piecing the puzzle together involved another unique feature of amateur hockey in this town: a high proportion of scientists and engineers.
"Over a few beers it was all figured out," says the Provocateurs organizer, "Some equipment arrived at the next game, and pretty soon we had our evidence for D-D fusion: tritium and 2.5 MeV neutrons."
The rest, as they say, is history.
"We got our goalies to hammer out the Science article," adds the team organizer, "They don't do much anyway."
International interest in the phenomenon skyrocketed once the news was unofficially announced in the local paper. Scientists by the hundreds have flocked to this tiny town on the Ottawa River. Several made it here, while missing-persons reports remain effective for many others.
The Fox TV Network has expressed an interest in the visual potential of fusion-boosted slapshots. While the NHL has yet to comment on the legality of this, Commissioners admit that current ice regulations do not specify the isotopic of the water used.
Of course, this remarkable scientific breakthrough is not without its critics, most vociferously from the anti-nuclear camp.
"This is a new area of nuclear energy and they aren't telling us much," says Toady Adams of the think-tank Everything Is A Problem. "We must study its risks and pitfalls. We're asking the government to hold a full Environmental Assessment, and of course this must include an adequate amount of intervener funding."
Quirky Adnauseum, spokesperson for the Campaign to Eliminate Options, is more dismissive: "At first we wanted to know where all that heavy water came from, but they told us the Ottawa River is so deep that the heavier stuff sinks to the bottom, where it can be extracted. So we're okay there."
"As for the experiment itself - we're not holding our breath. This is just more of that cold-fusion crap."
However, Adnauseum echoed the call for a full federal Environmental Assessment, and the need for intervener funding.
There is nothing but support, meanwhile, from local citizens. "This explains the boosted immune systems in kids that play on the Zamboni snowpile," says one neighbour. Officials with the local curling club plan to use heavy ice next season, and look forward to spectacular effects during their lights-out Rock n' Curl evenings.
The author claims no responsibility for the veracity of this story, but does thank Gary Dyck for bringing it to his attention.
©2011 Jeremy Whitlock