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Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 30, 2008
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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
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I learned the differences between an H-bomb and a fission bomb, the different types of fusion reactors, and that the big problem isn't fusion, it's sustaining fusion AND getting more energy out of the reaction than was initially put in to start it. I was really surprised that table-top fusion was a real thing--but now I understand the term "cold-fusion" much better.
This being said, the only fusion references I really had previously were from "The Saint" (1997) with Val Kilmer and Elisabeth Shue, and I also had a colleague working for ITER. Fusion just is not important enough (yet) to be in undergraduate physics, chemistry or thermodynamics courses...
Combined with a few books about relativity, string theory and human evolution, this book has been worth the price of admission for me (biased as it may be).
I've spent some time reading reviewers' opinions, and I must say that I agree with many of them. You can spot the professional scientists a mile away (grumpy...lol). As well they should be, as hard as this field must be (let alone devoting your entire life to it).
The author's grammar, prose, vocabulary and articulation are razor sharp...it is impossible not to reap some level of knowledge.
I highly suggest reading this book, and as for its pessimistic tone, have a grain of salt handy. Self interest and glory chasing are, after all, the human conditions necessary to fuel any passionate endeavor. We all seek recognition and attention on at least some level. It is unfortunate that some of these "air guitarists" have lacked scientific integrity, exchanging morals for a quick buck or 15 minutes of fame. More like a lifetime of shame...but this should NOT detract from the hard-working, honest scientists in the field...not should it be the a basis for disregard or abandonment. We need an alternative energy source, and the R&D will continue to cost a lot of money for a long period of time. A necessary expenditure!
At least now I'm armed with enough general knowledge to grasp the implications and possibilities of a fusion powered world, and I hope the data gleaned from monster atom smashers like CERN will unearth a few discoveries to further this form of energy.
Now I'm off to search for something on quantum qechanics...and a little something more to wrap my brain around this "Higgs-boson." It's hard enough to envision a 4th dimension, let alone a universal system permeating / governing all things including space. I wonder what sorts of truths the July 4th Higgs Field discovery may reveal...fascinating stuff!