Sun in a Bottle: The Strange History of Fusion and the Science of Wishful Thinking
, 2008 - Science
- 294 pages
The author of Zero looks at the messy history of the struggle to harness fusion energy . When weapons builders detonated the first hydrogen bomb in 1952, they tapped into the vastest source of energy in our solar system--the very same phenomenon that makes the sun shine. Nuclear fusion was a virtually unlimited source of power that became the center of a tragic and comic quest that has left scores of scientists battered and disgraced. For the past half-century, governments and research teams have tried to bottle the sun with lasers, magnets, sound waves, particle beams, and chunks of metal, have struggled to harness the power of fusion. (The latest venture, a giant, multi-billion-dollar, international fusion project called ITER, is just now getting underway.) Again and again, they have failed, disgracing generations of scientists. Throughout this fascinating journey Charles Seife introduces us to the daring geniuses, villains, and victims of fusion science: the brilliant and tortured Andrei Sakharov; the monomaniacal and Strangelovean Edward Teller; Ronald Richter, the secretive physicist whose lies embarrassed an entire country; and Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, the two chemists behind the greatest scientific fiasco of the past hundred years. Sun in a Bottle is the first major book to trace the story of fusion from its beginnings into the 21st century, of how scientists have gotten burned by trying to harness the power of the sun.