EDUCATION: Banish Fusion Confusion

Science  20 Jun 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5627, pp. 1855
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5627.1855b

Nuclear fusion fuels the sun and other stars. But researchers have yet to harness the atom-melding process to yield energy here on Earth because they haven't been able to sustain a power-producing reaction. High school and lower level college students can get up to speed on fusion research with this hands-on primer from the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory in New Jersey. Animated tutorials review fundamental topics such as the structure of matter, chemical bonding, and magnetism. Visitors can then plunge into fusion research with backgrounders on the principles of the reaction. Once they've absorbed the basics, they can try running a virtual tokamak, a doughnut-shaped “magnetic bottle” that holds seething plasma, the ultrahot, ionized gas in which fusion reactions occur. Another feature lets students analyze real data from the lab's experiments.

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