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 as they struggled to harness the power of fusion. (The latest venture, a giant, multibillion-dollar international fusion project called ITER, is just now getting under way.) 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 one of the greatest scientific fiascoes of the past 100 years.
Sun in a Bottle is the first audiobook to trace the story of fusion from its beginnings into the 21st century, explaining how scientists have gotten burned by trying to harness the power of the sun.
©2008 Charles Seife; (P)2008 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
This book is mostly about the early history of fusion research, and about the more recent fiascos where lone-wolf researchers have claimed breakthroughs without adequate scientific basis. If you are interested in cold and bubble fusion, and how the press has dealt with them, this is a good book for you. On the other hand, Seife devotes relatively little ink to the scientists and engineers worldwide who are working to develop fusion, on the basis of peer-reviewed, replicable research. He also doesn't systematically review the literature on progress in fusion, on the remaining challenges, and on why it is attractive as an energy source. When I started in this field as a graduate student we made 1/10 of a Watt of fusion heat in a pulse of 1/100 of second. Now the record is in the range of 10 million Watts for a second. That is an improvement by an overall factor of 10 billion. The international ITER project will produce 500 million Watts of fusion heat for periods of at least 300 - 500 seconds. We have further to go, and lots of challenges, but fusion has large advantages in safety, waste and nuclear proliferation. There are relatively few options for large-scale, long-term, steady electric power production, and they all need to be explored.
A good listen - although the author has an agenda and point of view he is fairly honest and upfront abotu it.
The first half of the book is great. The author discusses the scientific advances in both fusion and fission. Unfortunately, he dedicates a large portion of the 2nd half of the book to cold fusion, which should have only received mention. It is unfortunate because he really had something. Overall I would still recommend the book if you have any interest in the science behind nuclear power.
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