It is called a tokamak—old Soviet shorthand for a more precise and geometrical name, toroidalnaya kamera s aksialnym magnitnym polem, or “toroidal chamber with an axial magnetic field.” Sakharov’s rough sketch depicted a doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber, or torus, ringed with electromagnets, and that is how iter’s core will look, too, once it is completed.

In myriad ways, the project is a fragment of the Cold War stranded in the present day. Sakharov had predicted that a reactor based on his sketch would produce energy in only ten or fifteen years. Subsequent physicists who built and ran experimental tokamaks were equally optimistic, always predicting success in a decade or two or three. Yet, while other scientific challenges have been overcome—launching Yuri Gagarin into orbit; delivering a rover to Mars; sequencing the human genome; discovering the Higgs boson in cern’s Large Hadron Collider—controlled thermonuclear energy has remained elusive. The National Academy of Engineering regards the construction of a commercial thermonuclear reactor—the kind of device that would follow iter—as one of the top engineering challenges of the twenty-first century. Some in the field believe that a working machine would be a monument to human achievement surpassing the pyramids of Giza.


“toroidal chamber with an axial magnetic field.”

Folksonomies: physics technology fusion

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Tokamak (0.961589): website | dbpedia | freebase
Large Hadron Collider (0.825049): geo | website | dbpedia | freebase | yago
Russia (0.791635): website | dbpedia | ciaFactbook | freebase | opencyc | yago
Particle physics (0.715515): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Magnetic field (0.693512): dbpedia | freebase
Nuclear fusion (0.676300): dbpedia | freebase
Fusion power (0.675155): website | dbpedia | freebase
Standard Model (0.664075): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 A Star in a Bottle
Periodicals>Magazine Article:  Khatchadourian, Raffi (March 3, 2014), A Star in a Bottle, The New Yorker, Retrieved on 2014-02-25
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: science history fusion public policy