A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy

A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy

by Daniel Clery
     
 

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Our rapidly industrializing world has an insatiable hunger for energy and conventional sources are struggling to meet demand. Oil is running out, coal is damaging our climate, many nations are abandoning nuclear, yet solar, wind, and water will never be a complete replacement.
The solution, says Daniel Clery in this deeply researched and revelatory book, is to

Overview

Our rapidly industrializing world has an insatiable hunger for energy and conventional sources are struggling to meet demand. Oil is running out, coal is damaging our climate, many nations are abandoning nuclear, yet solar, wind, and water will never be a complete replacement.
The solution, says Daniel Clery in this deeply researched and revelatory book, is to be found in the original energy source: the Sun itself. There, at its center, the fusion of 620 million tons of hydrogen every second generates an unfathomable amount of energy. By replicating even a tiny piece of the Sun’s power on Earth, we can secure all the heat and energy we would ever need.
Nuclear fusion scientists have pursued this simple yet extraordinary ambition for decades. Skeptics say it will never work but, as A Piece of the Sun makes clear, large-scale nuclear fusion is scientifically possible—and has many advantages over other options. Fusion is clean, green and virtually limitless and Clery argues passionately and eloquently that the only thing keeping us from proving its worth is our politicians’ shortsightedness. The world energy industry is worth trillions of dollars, divert just a tiny fraction of that into researching fusion and we would soon know if it is workable.
Timely and authoritative, A Piece of the Sun is a rousing call-to-arms to seize this chance of avoiding the looming energy crisis.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For the past 60 years, the development of controlled atomic fusion has been the holy grail for physicists and alternative-energy advocates. Clery, a theoretical physicist and European news editor of Science magazine, introduces readers to the problems inherent in this quest and to the international group of scientists who doggedly pursue it. Following WWII and the advent of the atomic bomb (which was based on fission), British, American, and Soviet scientists began investigating the possibility of fusion as a means to build more powerful weapons. Amazingly enough, in 1958—at the height of the Cold War—the U.K. and the U.S. completely declassified their fusion research, thereby enabling physicists from around the world to collaborate. But even with international cooperation, the magnitude of the task was glaringly apparent—it was far more complicated and expensive than they could’ve imagined. Getting to a point where fusion was tenable in the lab meant harnessing the power of the Sun on Earth. The author charts many dead ends and limited successes, all of which have led to a greater store of knowledge, but no fusion energy—yet. Ultimately, Clery argues that developing a source of energy that won’t damage the climate—or ever run out—is worth striving for. Agent: Peter Tallack, Science Factory (U.K.). (July)
From the Publisher
"Clery's book, "A Piece of the Sun," builds upon his reporting for Physics World, New Scientist and the journal Science to tell the story of fusion research from its beginnings in the 19th century, when it dawned on physicists that the sun couldn't possible be powered by coal…The quest has been a decades-long roller-coaster ride of hope and disappointment, as traced in Clery's book. At the end of his book, Clery quotes the late Soviet pioneer Lev Artsimovich's assessment of when fusion energy would be available: "Fusion will be ready when society needs it," Artsimovich said. Considering the alternatives, will society ever need fusion?" —Alan Boyle, NBCNews.com
Lev Grossman - TIME Magazine
“Daniel Clery's A Piece of the Sun is "an excellent history of fusion."”
Kirkus Reviews
A surprisingly sprightly tour d'horizon of the pursuit of fusion energy, from Science deputy news director Clery. Fusion is all, writes the author: "Every atom in your body, apart from the hydrogen, was created by fusion in a long-dead star." If fission is the evil twin, then fusion is what we want as a source of energy: the melding of two nuclei to make a larger one, producing heat as a byproduct--without the wealth of other nasty byproducts that fission leaves in its wake. However, at the same time, the nuclei repel each other, unless under terrific pressure. We have not even achieved a break-even point yet: More energy is pumped into provoking the reaction than is produced, and plasma's notorious instabilities have made it too furtive to harness. Clery walks readers through the history of fusion study, from Lord Kelvin, Albert Einstein and a large cast of peculiar physicists, to all manner of international politics--e.g., the darts and feints of the Cold War, the braces applied by OPEC in the wake of the 1973 war among Israel, Egypt and Syria. Clery negotiates the hard science with aplomb, though there are times when it takes considerable focus to follow the proceedings: "In a tokamak, the horizontal toroidal field and vertical poloidal field combine to produce helical magnetic field lines." Yet even such dark matter slowly becomes accessible, and both the promise and the pity of fusion take shape. Clery taps into the whirlwind of excitement around cold fusion, the give and take of public funding to fusion research, and the frustrations that jeopardize that work--for example, $450 million going to the National Ignition Facility to "investigate why there was a divergence between simulations and measured performance." A compelling case for continued, even increased, fusion research.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781468304930
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
06/27/2013
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
633,311
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

"Clery's book, "A Piece of the Sun," builds upon his reporting for Physics World, New Scientist and the journal Science to tell the story of fusion research from its beginnings in the 19th century, when it dawned on physicists that the sun couldn't possible be powered by coal…The quest has been a decades-long roller-coaster ride of hope and disappointment, as traced in Clery's book. At the end of his book, Clery quotes the late Soviet pioneer Lev Artsimovich's assessment of when fusion energy would be available: "Fusion will be ready when society needs it," Artsimovich said. Considering the alternatives, will society ever need fusion?" —Alan Boyle, NBCNews.com

Meet the Author

Daniel Clery studied theoretical physics at York University. As a news editor for Science magazine since 1993, Clery has covered many of the biggest science news stories of our time.

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