Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dispairing Of Fusion, Building ITER Anyway

New Scientist excerpts a paper written by the late William Parkins, a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, which claims that fusion is 50 years away, and always will be.

"The history of this dream is as discouraging as it is expensive," wrote William Parkins, a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project during the second world war, who later became the chief scientist at US engineering firm Rockwell International.

Sadly, Parkins passed away while his lengthy paper, which makes its case on engineering grounds, was being edited. But Donald Kennedy, Science's editor considered the paper important enough to run the piece posthumously, in a condensed form, and to stand behind its conclusions personally.


​​​​Advocates of the technology insist it is too soon to give up, and that great progress has been made. "I was less convinced 30 years ago [that fusion could become practical] but we have made incredible progress," Miklos Porkolab, director of the Plasma Fusion Center at MIT, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, told New Scientist. "The science is going to work," he said, "and the rest is economics."

It's a good thing that the ITER folks haven't been paying attention (or maybe they should), because they've finally green-lighted the Cadarache, France site. How long before the shovels get busy?

In perhaps related news, the Z-machine has produced temperatures in excess of two billion degrees Kelvin, and producing more energy in X-rays than was input in electrical power. The researchers are busy rechecking their calculations...