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News & Media

Latest ITER Newsline

  • Question of the week | Will fusion run out of fuel?

    One of the paradoxes of fusion, the virtually inexhaustible energy of the future, is that it relies on an element that does not exist—or just barely. Tritium, o [...]

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  • Managing data | Setting up a robust process

    Are the ITER systems and processes robust enough to manage the technical and project data for a program of ITER's complexity? Will quality information be made a [...]

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  • Image of the week | Bullseye

    Two perfectly circular structures, looking a lot like archery targets, have been installed on the west-facing wall of the Tokamak Complex. They are not for sh [...]

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  • Art and science | Seeking new perspectives on fusion

    Standing in the middle of the Tokamak Building, sound artist Julian Weaver positions his 3D microphone near one of the openings of the bioshield to record the s [...]

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  • Worksite photos | The view one never tires of

    For the past three-and a half years, ITER Communication has been documenting construction progress from the top of the tallest crane on the ITER worksite. Altho [...]

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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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