From Publishers Weekly
Fifty years ago scientists and futurists glowingly predicted a future in which cars would run on little fusion cells and the world would extract deuterium from the oceans for an inexhaustible supply of energy. Like all too many shining visions, fusion turned out to be a mirage. Award-winning science journalist Seife (Zero
) takes a long, hard look at nuclear fusion and the failure of one scheme after another to turn it into a sustainable energy source. Many readers will remember the 1989 cold fusion debacle, but Seife explains why tabletop fusion isn't all that difficult to achieve. The problem, as with all fusion devices except the hydrogen bomb, is to produce more energy than the fusion process consumes. The two most promising approaches today use plasma and lasers, but again, Seife reports, scientists have been repeatedly frustrated. The United States and several other industrial nations recently agreed optimistically to sink billions of dollars into a 30-year fusion power project. Seife's approachable book should interest everyone concerned about finding alternative energy sources. (Nov. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
It’s the energy source of the future, and always will be; that’s the rap on nuclear fusion. Reviewing its development—which at present is embodied in two big-science installations in California and France—Seife clarifies the devilish complexities of containing a fusion reaction. The idea’s tantalizing physical simplicity and the allure of earning unbounded riches from unlimited power has repeatedly tempted scientists, whose excess optimism, hubris, and self-deception propel the technical side of Seife’s account. A seasoned science author (most recently, Decoding the Universe, 2006), Seife shines in explaining how hydrogen’s behavior at solarlike temperatures has so far defeated the two conventional devices for taming it: magnets and lasers. With high-energy physics at an impasse, eccentric claims of room-temperature fusion gained a hearing. Remember the cold-fusion nondiscovery of 1989? Seife writes up two other claims of low-temperature fusion that similarly could not be replicated, the sine qua non of scientific proof. Informed and perceptive, Seife ably melds physics and public policy (fusion has consumed billions of dollars) into a fine presentation for general-interest readers. --Gilbert Taylor