Not Content to Wish Upon a Star…

Lightnings {{es|Tormenta eléctrica.
Image via Wikipedia

…scientists at the National Ignition Facility in Livermore, California, are getting ready to do something spectacular: ignite a tiny man-made star inside a lab and trigger a thermonuclear reaction using 192 immensely powerful lasers that concentrate 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States into a billionth of a second.

The result should be an explosion in the 32ft-wide reaction chamber which will produce at least 10 (and up to 100) times the amount of energy used to create it.

Let me get this straight: inside this 32 foot reaction chamber will be a force that is 10,000 times the entire electrical generating power of the country? The show must go on.

If the globe goes dark when the grid gets drained sometime in 2009 (or if, like, the sun seems to stay up there for maybe a month without setting) you’ll know why.

Pardon my calloused opinion, but if you listen to the National Ignition Facility’s “mission statement” on the video, the “strategic national defense” and “testing thermonuclear devices without underground explosions” parts make this public relations science trick seem more like a sugar coated “star wars” test with some remotely possible man-on-the-street spin-offs–maybe the world’s next TANG or pens that write upside down or super novas-to-go in a thumb drive! Or maybe clean, limitless energy?

Thanks, Neatorama and National Ignition Facility website and read more about Future Fusion here. Wouldn’t it be something if a near-term source of clean, limitless energy came out of all this. Check out this fact (but don’t hold your breath.):

Fusion fuel, deuterium and tritium is readily available in seawater. Just 2lbs of fusion fuel is capable of producing the same amount of energy as 10,000 tonnes of fossil fuel.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fred, all of this is over my head. Should I be alarmed? Should I plan a trip home to VA before they set this off? Will I have a habitable home remaining here after the boom? Will this start the slide of CA into the ocean? Will Arnie be back?