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  • Contract management | E-procurement helps to simplify and streamline

    The Procurement & Contracts Division at the ITER Organization is rolling out a new e-procurement tool that will simplify and streamline contract management [...]

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  • Cooling water plant | Partners work in lockstep to keep ITER cool

    Much of the cooling water plant is now ready for commissioning, thanks to a well-executed plan and close coordination among partners. 'Sooner or later, all heat [...]

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  • American Physical Society | Alberto Loarte elected Fellow

    Alberto Loarte, head of the ITER Science Division, has been elected as a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS). Loarte was nominated by the APS Division [...]

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  • Fusion events | Bringing power to the people

    In tandem with the annual Fête de la Science, a French exhibition on the sciences, the European research consortium EUROfusion is premiering a new travelling ex [...]

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  • Fusion world | Stellarators "an option" for future power plants

    In the history of magnetic fusion, the photo is iconic. A smiling, bespectacled middle-aged man stands next to a strange contraption sitting on a makeshift wood [...]

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Of Interest

See archived entries

Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

He hoped to see fusion in his lifetime

Stephen Hawking came into life on the very day that Galileo Galilei had left it, some 300 years earlier. He passed away on 14 March, the date of Albert Einstein's birth. If these coincidences are not enough to make one wonder, 14 March—which can be written as 3/14—is also celebrated by mathematicians around the world as "Pi Day" ... "Pi" (Π) being a mathematical constant that even non-mathematicians are familiar with.

Weightless—in 2007, Stephen Hawking experienced ''zero gravity'' during a parabolic flight aboard a NASA Boeing 727, feeling ''like Superman for a few minutes.'' (Click to view larger version...)
Weightless—in 2007, Stephen Hawking experienced ''zero gravity'' during a parabolic flight aboard a NASA Boeing 727, feeling ''like Superman for a few minutes.''
Confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed by a neurodegenerative condition, and unable to communicate without a computerized voice system, Hawking, like Galilei and Einstein before him, radically redefined our perception of the Universe.

Hawking was not only interested in black holes, quantum mechanics and the "theory of everything"—he was also preoccupied by the future of our planet, which he considered "under threat from many different areas."

Fusion energy, in his view, offered promise for the main challenges that mankind would inevitably face. In 2010, asked by Time Magazine which scientific discovery or advance he would like to see in his lifetime, he replied without hesitation: "I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming."

In June last year at the Starmus Festival of arts and sciences in Norway, he entrusted nuclear fusion with another mission: providing the fuel that would open the way to mankind's relocation—which he deemed inevitable—to another habitable planet. But travelling to this new home, he said, would require a "much higher exhaust speed than chemical rockets can provide."

As fusion reactions deliver millions of times more energy per mass unit than today's rocket fuels, a fusion-propelled star ship and its human cargo could, according to Hawking's calculation, be accelerated to "one tenth of the speed of light" and reach habitable worlds in acceptable time.

Science-fiction? Moonshine? Pipe dream? Maybe, or, like so many things Hawking ... simply visionary.


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