Will Fusion Energy Ever Come Together?

The target assembly at the National Ignition Facility’s fusion experiment. The two triangle-shaped arms shield the cylinder until five seconds before a blast from the world’s most powerful lasers.

It’s the poetry of fusion that draws us in. There in the heart of a star, in the welter of plasma, we find creation. In mindboggling heat and pressure, hydrogen atoms crash together and fuse to become helium, and the process shines light into a dark universe. Who wouldn’t be charmed when Carl Sagan reverently describes how fusion makes “the stars turn on”? And who can resist the audacious idea of creating a miniature sun here on Earth, and using nuclear fusion reactors to make human civilization shine brighter?

Perhaps you heard the encouraging news recently from the National Ignition Facility (NIF), the $3 billion fusion experiment in California. Scientists announced that by blasting a peppercorn-sized sphere containing hydrogen atoms with the world

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus9 min readPsychology
Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live: Without inner narratives we would be lost in a chaotic world.
We are all storytellers; we make sense out of the world by telling stories. And science is a great source of stories. Not so, you might argue. Science is an objective collection and interpretation of data. I completely agree. At the level of the stud
Nautilus9 min readRelationships & Parenting
Families of Choice Are Remaking America: Through their networks of friends, singles are strengthening society’s social bonds.
When Dan Scheffey turned 50, he threw himself a party. About 100 people packed into his Manhattan apartment, which occupies the third floor of a brick townhouse in the island’s vibrant East Village. His parents, siblings, and an in-law were there, an
Nautilus6 min read
The Big Bang Is Hard Science. It Is Also a Creation Story.: Even with its explanatory power, Big Bang theory takes its place in a long line of myths.
In some ways, the history of science is the history of a philosophical resistance to mythical explanations of reality. In the ancient world, when we asked “Where did the world come from?” we were told creation myths. In the modern world, we are inste