April 10, 2009
Colloquium Speaker: Charles Seife
Charles Seife is the author of Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking and three other books, including Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea. An associate professor of journalism at New York University, Seife has covered physics for Science magazine, Scientific American, New Scientist, Discover, The Economist, and numerous other publications.
It's an old joke by now: fusion is the energy source of the future... and it always will be. As early as 1955, scientists were predicting that a fusion powerplant was 20 years away. More than half a century later, scientists are still saying that a demonstration fusion reactor is a few decades in the future. In this talk, I will attempt to explain how the complex relationships among plasma physicists, reporters, and lawmakers have damaged the quest for fusion energy -- undermining a line of research that was once (and still should be) a source of national prestige, and causing it to be overshadowed it by phony claims and false promises.