the fusion illusion


Fusion has been the Holy Grail of energy since long before anyone ever worried about global warming or strategic dependency on OPEC. Since the dawn of the atomic age, armies of scientists and researchers and government officials have invested billions of dollars and countless hours of toil and labor to replicate, in a controlled environment, what the sun is constantly doing: converting matter into energy through a fusion reaction. To figure this out would be to solve humanity’s energy needs once and for all. The development of successful fusion power plants would put an end to all the economic, environmental, and foreign policy troubles that plague the current global energy regime. Unlike windmills and solar panels, the potential of fusion energy is virtually limitless. This vision has spurred a movement of would-be discoverers lighting out for the fame and glory that would accompany the breakthrough of controlled fusion. A recent book chronicles this wild, oft-contentious scientific pursuit. Charles Seife, a former Science magazine writer and the author of the heralded 2000 bestseller, Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, has written a lively account of the history of fusion research—“a tragic and comic pursuit that has left scores of scientists battered and disgraced.”

more from Max Schulz at The New Atlantis here.