In California, at the ultra-powerful fusion laboratory of the National Ignition Facility, 192 laser beams have fired simultaneously, blasting their target -- a circle 2 millimeters in diameter -- with 500 trillion watts. That's 1,000 times more than the entire rest of the United States was using at the time. It is the highest-energy laser shot ever fired in real life, although some fictional lasers have exceeded the record.
"Propulsion," the nine-year-old says as he leads his dad through the gates of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. "I just want to see the propulsion stuff."
A young woman guides their group toward a full-scale replica of the massive Saturn V rocket that brought America to the moon. As they duck under the exhaust nozzles, Kenneth Wilson glances at his awestruck boy and feels his burden beginning to lighten. For a few minutes, at least, someone else will feed his son's boundless appetite for knowledge.
Then Taylor raises his hand, not with a question but an answer. He knows what makes this thing, the biggest rocket ever launched, go up.
The well-publicized failures of cold fusion may have tainted the field's reputation, but physicists have been successfully joining nuclei with hot fusion since 1932. Today, research in hot fusion could lead to a clean energy source free from the drawbacks that dog fission power plants. Fusion power plants cannot melt down; they won't produce long-lived, highly radioactive waste; and fusion fuel cannot be easily weaponized.
By Ben PaynterPosted 09.21.2010 at 12:31 pm 7 Comments
Jobs may be scarce today, but if current trends hold, pretty soon there will be plenty of fun, lucrative gigs. If you have the vision to start prepping now, you could be flying starships, reading minds, or manning a fusion reactor. The jobs are coming. Feel free to thank us over lunch at the hotel you built- on Mars.
Need a weekend project around the house? Mark Suppes, web developer by day, has built his own nuclear fusion reactor in a Brooklyn workspace. It kind of makes that project car you’ve got rusting in the garage seem lame by comparison.
In what the BBC is calling "a claim that is likely to be met with some scepticism," North Korea has announced that it has made huge strides toward developing thermonuclear power, going so far as to claim that the nation's scientists have built a "unique thermo-nuclear reaction device."
We've got your skepticism right here.
Looking for new energy solutions, scientists are increasingly embracing the idea of cold fusion, once considered a junk science along the lines of alchemy. "Cold fusion" describes the nuclear fusion of atoms at close to room temperatures, as opposed to the epic temperatures at which nuclei fuse inside stars. If realized on a practical scale, it could provide the world with a virtually limitless source of energy.