Fusion power has been the fevered dream of scientists, environmentalists and futurists for almost a century. For the past few decades, scientists have been attempting to find a way to create sustainable fusion reactions that would provide human beings with clean, abundant energy, which would finally break our dependence on fossil fuels and other unclean methods.
Inexpensive clean energy sounds like a pipe dream. Scientists have long thought that nuclear fusion, the type of reaction that powers stars like the Sun, could be one way to make it happen, but the reaction has been too difficult to maintain. Now, we’re closer than ever before to making it happen — physicists from the University of Tokyo (UTokyo) say they’ve produced the strongest-ever controllable magnetic field.
For centuries, humans have dreamed of harnessing the power of the sun to energize our lives here on Earth. But we want to go beyond collecting solar energy, and one day generate our own from a mini-sun. If we’re able to solve an extremely complex set of scientific and engineering problems, fusion energy promises a green, safe, unlimited source of energy. From just one kilogram of deuterium extracted from water per day could come enough electricity to power hundreds of thousands of homes.
Research is an unpredictable process. Sometimes you end up making a really cool discovery that you didn’t see coming. I recently uncovered a fundamental property of lightsabers (that’s right – the awesome weapons from Star Wars) while doing my regular plasma physics research. I found that, while it is in theory possible to build a lightsaber, it’s likely it would be the most dangerous weapon ever created – both for the perpetrator and the victim.
Reports that North Korea has launched a fourth nuclear weapons test – backed by convincing seismic data – have caused widespread alarm. North Korean officials announced in advance that the test would involve “a totally different type of nuclear bomb” from those trialled in previous years. Following the test, North Korean state television lauded the first detonation of a “hydrogen bomb" as a “national epoch-making event”.