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This article is the fifth of a series of eight articles on fusion power written by Tom Tamarkin and Pat Boone in their collaboration to speak to American citizens…in fact all citizens of the world…on the ill-fated history of fusion power development and the urgent need to resurrect and complete it. The articles are based on four years of intensive research and personal interviews with high-energy plasma & fusion scientists and visits to all the leading fusion laboratories.
Posted: June 11, 2011
Updated January 5, 2016
I knew a man named John Lennon.
I first met him with his buddies, Paul, George and Ringo, in Las Vegas when they were just fresh, funny and talented young kids from Liverpool.
I and my daughters visited with them backstage between their two shows in the Thomas Mack Arena and found them charming and energetic, relishing their new and sudden stardom.
Like the rest of the world, I watched as their careers blossomed and assumed fantastic proportion. Each record, and then each movie, eclipsed the last … until they had become the greatest singing group in music history. It will never be equaled.
Many years later, I visited with John and producer Phil Spector in a nice health-food restaurant while they were working on a new album. As we compared notes and stories about our experiences, I asked John what he thought was the main reason for the Beatles’ incredible success. He thought a minute behind his little round glasses and answered, “Imagination.”
As Ted Kennedy quoted his brother, Robert: “He thought of things that never were, and asked ‘why not?’”
And young Walt Disney – at a time when the “cartoons” he and a couple others were successfully producing cost an average of $5,000 – told his incredulous brother, Roy, he envisioned a full-length feature film, in total animation, and estimated it would cost $1.5 million! It seemed unthinkable. But it was imaginable, and it became a worldwide sensation: “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” a timeless classic.
Imagination. It’s much more powerful than most realize. In fact, hardly anything of value has ever been accomplished without beginning as an idea, which is really imagination. In Genesis 11, a group of mere humans imagined a city and a tower reaching into heaven, and they began to actually build it. The Lord God said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.”
“Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” And the Tower of Babel came to a halt.
But now the language barrier has been erased and, as Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Man can do virtually anything he can imagine.
That’s why I have written five of my recent columns here on nuclear fusion. I’m not a scientist, as I said at the outset, but I have a wonderful imagination. And so do a great number of scientists who have not only envisioned a world empowered by an inexhaustible, eternally available energy source, but have come very close to making it available to humanity.
Guided by physicists and other scientists who’ve been personally involved at various levels, I’ve given a sketchy but detailed history of the early experiments and the discoveries that proved the theories of nuclear fusion; described the work and research in a number of American universities, and the funding allocated by our government during the Carter & Reagan administrations, that led to amazing breakthroughs; and I’ve cited the miraculous, almost inconceivable heat levels achieved at Princeton that ached to be used in creating the plasma that would create nuclear fusion as the ultimate energy source.
But I’ve also detailed the unexpected resistance to this amazing progress in various departments of our own government, including the Department of Energy! Who, and why? It shouldn’t be a surprise that various vested interests, powerful lobbying interests who wanted oil and gas and coal and electricity and, yes, even nuclear fission to be utilized first, prevailed.
So the funding, and much of the almost triumphant technology, dwindled and ground nearly to a halt. But we can still imagine, and the goal still can be attained.
I want you to imagine with me. Imagine a world where oil is mainly a lubricant and a base for manufactured products, a world where there is plenty of clean, fresh water for drinking, irrigation and sanitation. We already have the technology and tools to desalinate and purify water for every community in the world – but we don’t have the energy source or funding for it.
Fusion can do it.
Imagine a world where food doesn’t have to be scarce anywhere and hunger can vanish. With petroleum no longer needed to power cars, the price of oil would plummet. We use oil to make plastics, and clear plastics make greenhouses. Inexpensive greenhouses can be manufactured, warmed and lighted by the endless supply of energy from fusion – and food can be grown anywhere. Can you imagine it?
“Global warming” can be a non-issue when fusion gives us a world where humanity leaves only a small carbon footprint. All the natural sources of energy are frighteningly finite, but fusion is infinite.
The physicists with whom I’ve consulted are certain that if we make a very focused, concerted and adequately funded effort, bringing fusion to the world is 100 percent certain. There are others who are more pessimistic and say there may only be a 20 percent chance, at least in the foreseeable future.
But ask yourself: If your family was on the verge of starving and you had evidence that there was a 20 percent chance that unlimited food was just over the next hill, what would you do? Wouldn’t you look at your hungry children and start climbing? You’d climb a mountain, if you had to.
This isn’t a pipe dream. There is unlimited food and water, unlimited energy and unlimited opportunity for the human race – just over the next hill.
We’ve got to use our imaginations, millions and millions of us. We’ve got to involve our government through our elected representatives, all the way to the president. We’ve got to use the energy we have and vote for the future just over the hill. Please visit the Fusion 4 Freedom website. https://www.fusion4freedom.com
If only in the months ahead scientists could come together and meet to organize and hold workshops with top fusion and plasma leaders, military strategic planners in the model of Admiral Hyman Rickover, who led the development of the nuclear submarine, and major philanthropists. The goal? A clear plan leading to the demonstration of a working fusion test reactor by the end of this decade. This year is the 50th anniversary of John Kennedy’s challenge to America to put a man on the moon and bring him safely home to earth.
We did it then. And we can do it now – if we harness the skills and brilliance of American and Israeli scientists. I imagine we can!
Pat Boone is a legendary Hollywood icon in the preforming arts who traces his ancestry to the American pioneer, Daniel Boone. Pat has sold over 45 million albums, had 38 top 40 hits, and starred in more than 12 Hollywood motion pictures. Pat graduated from Columbia University in New York City, magna cum laude in 1958. Pat is well-known for his old-fashioned values, which contributed to his fame and popularity in the early days of the rock & roll era to the present. Today he is still active on television and in the motivational speaking circuit. Pat has spent the last few years writing columns and books and runs his own record label named Lion & Lamb. Pat’s first book, “Twixt Twelve and Twenty,” Prentice Hall, was a number 1 Best Seller in America. Pat lives with his wife of 60 years, Shirley, in Beverly Hills, California.
Tom Tamarkin is the founder & CEO of USCL and EnergyCite®. In the 1970s Tom was an undergraduate student at Northern Arizona University majoring in physics with a dual minor of chemistry and applied mathematics. Tom is credited with inventing the electrical utility smart grid-Smart Meter in 1991…well before the concept of the smart grid became popular. In 1992, Public Power Magazine published an article which has become the basis for the “smart meter” which is now the corner stone of the current U.S. Department of Energy utility stimulus grants program with emphasis on energy conservation and awareness. Tom holds six granted patents on the smart meter system and has numerous patents pending. Tom lives with his wife of 30 years, Emily, in Carmichael, California.