Rivka Galchen, writing for The New Yorker:

Let’s say that you’ve devoted your entire adult life to developing
a carbon-free way to power a household for a year on the fuel of a
single glass of water, and that you’ve had moments, even years,
when you were pretty sure you would succeed. Let’s say also that
you’re not crazy. This is a reasonable description of many of the
physicists working in the field of nuclear fusion. In order to
reach this goal, they had to find a way to heat matter to
temperatures hotter than the center of the sun, so hot that atoms
essentially melt into a cloud of charged particles known as
plasma; they did that. They had to conceive of and build
containers that could hold those plasmas; they did that, too, by
making “bottles” out of strong magnetic fields. When those
magnetic bottles leaked — because, as one scientist explained,
trying to contain plasma in a magnetic bottle is like trying to
wrap a jelly in twine — they had to devise further ingenious
solutions, and, again and again, they did. Over decades, in the
pursuit of nuclear fusion, scientists and engineers built giant
metal doughnuts and Gehryesque twisted coils, they “pinched”
plasmas with lasers, and they constructed fusion devices in
garages. For thirty-six years, they have been planning and
building an experimental fusion device in Provence. And yet
commercially viable nuclear-fusion energy has always remained just
a bit farther on. As the White Queen, in “Through the Looking
,” said to Alice, it is never jam today, it is always jam

Fascinating and intriguing.


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