A Piece of the Sun: The Quest for Fusion Energy Hardcover – 20 Jun 2013
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Beautifully captures the excitement and frustrations of the quest for the perfect energy source ... a story of human endeavour and scientific insight * Professor Steve Cowley, CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority *
About the Author
Daniel Clery is a graduate in theoretical physics. For over two decades, he has edited and written for top science magazines all around the world, including Physics World, New Scientist and Science. In 1993, he was named the news editor for Science magazine in Europe, and has covered many of the big science news stories of our time.
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The author deals with the necessary physics effortlessly, explaining it without complexity or over simplification whilst threading it into the larger story without slowing the pace. The conclusion, with a synopsis of the current fusion state of play, leaves a cliffhanger that only the continued efforts of the scientific community can draw to conclusion.
All in all an enjoyable and compelling read
Nuclear fusion with its simple fuel and low level waste has always seemed such a natural energy solution I have never understood why we have been so slow at developing it - now I do. Daniel Clery beautifully describes the development of the technology and the parallel understanding of plasmas and fusion in the UK, US and Russia (for some reason, less so in the other big fusion player, Japan). By reading this you get a real feel for the difficulties and in some cases the dramatic stories of the developments and political infighting along the way.
The book also explains another mystery - why the US has put so much effort into the laser-driven inertial containment method which had never seemed a likely way to build a power station. It is, it seems, because it has been used to study the miniature fusion bombs that it uses, and has been strongly linked to military funding.
The way the story is told could have been a little better - the text can be a bit repetitive and there is perhaps a bit too much of the bureaucratic detail of how projects have been controlled and funded (in the end this is important to understanding how these mega projects work - but it makes the book less readable). It is also strange that we get the whole story in summary up front, then again in detail. It's not the author's fault but I was disappointed how far we still are from even having ITER working and with the conclusion of some experts that the technology is never going to be workable to reliably generate power for the grid.
Overall an essential book for anyone interested in fusion or who is involved in the politics of how we generate our electricity.
As a non-scientist with an interest in fusion, I found A Piece of The Sun a compelling account which described the technical concepts without going into unnecessary jargon, and brought the personalities and stories behind the science to life. Who would have thought that the hijacking of an airliner in Mogadishu would be a pivotal moment in the fusion programme, or that the ideas of an obscure Russian army sergeant stationed on a remote Pacific island would kick-start the whole research effort?
An excellent popular science book and a reminder of why, despite the seemingly glacial progress of research, fusion could still turn out to be our best long-term energy bet.
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