lördag 16 augusti 2014

Fusion future

Let me start by saying I don't have high hopes for controlled fusion in the near term.

However...

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a podcast about the ITER fusion project in France. Right now, the postponed schedule is for finishing the construction phase in 1919, begin experiments in 2020 and do full fusion in 2027. However the project has been delayed by almost one year for every year it has run. Apart from the project leader, no one seems to believe the reactor will be finished before 2022-202,3 and in that case I guess you have to be an incurable optimist to think they will do full fusion before 2035.

On the other hand, I listened to a handful of podcasts from Nature (article) today and in the episode from July 24th, 2014 (archive) the editors mentioned two fusion start-up companies that are planning much smaller scale, less expensive and completely different approaches to fusion. Tri-alpha (backed by Paul Allen and Russia) and General Fusion are planning to deliver fusion power in as little as a decade.

Promising

On the other hand, given what I think is the likely path for AI, solar energy, robotics, and biology it's only a matter of time anyway:

If a digital entity passes the Turing test in 2029 and a GAI surpasses the entire human population's combined intelligence by 2045, I think the fusion problem will be solved by then or shortly after. In the meantime, more efficient collection of solar energy (through vaporising water, better solar cells, fuel-producing bacteria etc) will be more than enough to power our increasingly efficient, albeit more and more ubiquitous, equipment.

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