April 10, 2009
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.
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.