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Fun in Fusion Research - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780124077935, 9780124078611

Fun in Fusion Research

1st Edition

Author: John Sheffield
Hardcover ISBN: 9780124077935
eBook ISBN: 9780124078611
Imprint: Elsevier
Published Date: 20th February 2013
Page Count: 160
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This book discusses the fun side of the quest to develop fusion energy—a modern equivalent of the hunt for the Holy Grail. After more than 70 years of research, despite great progress, the goal has not been realized. Do you have to be crazy to love quests like this? Not really, but you do have to have an unshakeable optimism. Through humorous anecdotes, and accessible yet detailed scientific discussion, this book illuminates the enjoyment of scientific research through an account of fifty years working on fusion energy development. The anecdotes bring out the human side of research, in which innovative and sometimes egocentric scientists create both clever and nutty experiments. Among the many stories within are witchcraft at Harwell, shocking experiences, entertaining talks, and the wit of top scientists such as Marshall Rosenbluth. Above all the book highlights the significant advances made in developing practical fusion energy and the promise for an exciting future with the National Ignition Facility and International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. This book will be of interest to physicists as well as other students and researchers in the scientific and wider communities.

Key Features

  • Shows the exciting and fun aspects of science research
  • Author has spent 54 years working in the area, offering key insights on the history of fusion
  • Clear, detailed explanations of fusion energy are supplied, helping non-science readers understand the area


Students, researchers, and professionals in physics, as well as those interested in the fun in science.

Table of Contents




1. The Fusion Dream

Big Bang

A Cutting Review

Genesis of Fusion Research

Magnetic Fusion

Inertial Fusion

2. Harwell Heydays

Arcs and Sparks

3. Stick with Spiders—Tarantula


Static Electricity

Dress Code

4. Ph.D. Experiment and Security

My Ph.D. Experiment and Other Plasmas

The Patrol Force

5. Culture Shock

Unexpected Diversions

The Oblique Shock-Wave Experiment

Two States Separated by a Common Language

6. Talks Can Surprise Us

Cakes and Ale

7. Culham Again

Neutral Beams and CLEO

A Weird Occurrence

8. JET: Larger and Larger

JET Travels

Entertainment in Dubna

9. JET Design: Do It Again, and Again, and … ?

Entertaining Times on JET

Shocking Experiences

Visiting the Former Soviet Union

10. 1977: Back in the U.S.A.

Security—A Serious Matter

The Elmo Bumpy Torus

The Early 1980s

Listening to the Father of the Hydrogen Bomb


11. Conferences in Erice

12. The Winding Stellarator Road

Stellarators and Koji Uo

The Advanced Toroidal Facility (ATF)

13. Fusion’s Prospects

The Dinosaur Chart

The Art of Stating Goals—JET and TFTR

What’s in a Q?

The Shiva Winner Altruistic Trust

14. Fear and Flying


What’s in a Name?

Flying to D.C.

Interesting Sides of Al Gore

Interrupted Talks

15. The Oscillating Fusion Program

International Fusion

16. What About Fusion Energy?

Sir Walter Raleigh Selling Fusion Energy

17. Fusion and the Universe

Forces in the Universe

Fusion Power Plants

Fusion Energy and the Plasma State

Background to MFE

Background to IFE

Main Challenges for Fusion Energy Research

Confining the Plasma Energy

Heating and Fueling the Plasma

Handling the Fusion Power

Challenges for a Fusion Power Plant

Reflections on 50 Years in Fusion Research




No. of pages:
© Elsevier 2013
20th February 2013
Hardcover ISBN:
eBook ISBN:

About the Author

John Sheffield

John Sheffield

John Sheffield PhD is known worldwide because of his involvement in numerous multi-national fusion energy projects for the U.S. and Europe. In the 1970s, he was on the design team for the 16-nation, Joint European Torus project at Culham in England; in the 1990s, he served as a U.S. representative on committees that defined and then gave technical advice to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER)-China, Europe, India, Japan, Korea, Russia, and the United States.

He served on the US-DOE’s Fusion Energy Sciences Advisory Committee for over a decade, chairing it from 1996 to 2000. From 1988 to 1994, he was director of Fusion Energy at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. From 1995 to 2003, he was director for Energy Technology Programs at ORNL, and from 1997 also director of the Joint Institute for Energy and Environment at the University of Tennessee. There he remains as a Senior Fellow in what is now called the Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment.


"The book is, in a sense, a short history of the quest for fusion, mainly through magnetic confinement, and the various stories paint an interesting picture of some of the characters in the field…It conveys a strong message that fusion is well worth the effort, even though it is likely to be decades before energy is delivered to the Grid."--CERN Courier, April 30, 2014
"This book has many interesting stories to complement both the history of the world fusion program and John Sheffield’s part in it. I recommend it to all those who are interested in the history of the fusion effort and who also wish to see that "all work and no play" would have made John a dull boy."--Fusion Science and Technology, November 2013
"He has participated in and made contributions to both the theoretical and experimental aspects of plasma science and fusion research. But most important (for this book), he has clearly had a keen eye, and an acute memory, for the very human and "fun" side of such serious work."--21st Century Science & Technology, Fall-Winter 2013
"Sheffield shares stories from his research work at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell, the University of Texas, the Joint European Torus, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and recalls humorous exchanges unleashed during fusion energy conferences. The comedy enlivens the normally dry science of fusing light elements to generate energy and shows that even plasma physicists can have a little fun."--Reference & Research Book News, October 2013
"Fusion veteran John Sheffield has written an entertaining account of the ‘fun’ times he has had traveling around the world doing research, giving talks, and cavorting with other scientists equally dedicated to the pursuit of the "ultimate" energy source…The book has many interesting stories to complement both the history of the world fusion program and John's part in it."--Fusion Power Report newsletter, May 16, 2013
"There is enough detail explaining fusion, and describing the history and variety of experiments over the last half century, to inform the new reader. But the enjoyment of Sheffield's book is immediately obvious." -- 21st Century Science & Technology, Fall-Winter 2013

Ratings and Reviews