23 February 2009


I watched an interesting 'Horizon' programme about nuclear fusion.

If we are to become a Kardashev Type 1 civilisation we are going to need fusion. Many would probably ask why we would wish to push through to this level and not just be satisfied with our current Type 0.72. Striving for this staging post could be the death of us but so could trying to stand still.

It is currently fashionable to wear personal energy consumption level as a badge. But the idea of a "carbon footprint" is arbitrary. The result depends on which questions you ask. Inefficient energy consumption is wasteful and counter-productive but so is inefficient energy generation. Wind turbines are strangely beautiful but there can never be enough of them to make a real difference. Such 'green' forms of energy production lull us into a false sense of security. They make us feel that we are doing something. But it will never be enough.

All our energy comes from the sun one way or another. Oil is encapsulated power from long-long dead vegetation which once used photosynthesis to harness solar energy. And so the sun is always the way forward.

Fusion involves learning the lessons from the hearts of stars to make miniature suns here on Earth, using tokamaks or laser fusion. These techniques stand a good chance of success over the next 10-20 years but they are poorly funded, perhaps because of the current fixation with employing primitive wind, tidal, bio fuel and nuclear fission methods.

Evolution has always required energy to make exponential leaps to new levels of complexity. We are part of that process and nuclear fusion is the paradigm shift in energy generation that we require.

Why do we require this? Why didn't we just stay in the primordial soup?

No comments: