A major energy breakthrough

There’s nothing like waking up after a long weekend to learn that while you were busy throwing small bean bags onto a wooden board for points, scientists were making history.  

Driving the news: Scientists have achieved net energy gain in a nuclear fusion reaction for the second time, marking progress towards harnessing a new sustainable energy source.

  • After 70 years of trial and error, scientists have harnessed the same type of energy that powers the sun through a fusion reaction that created more energy than it used.

  • The creation of net new energy is called ‘fusion ignition,’ which in this case reportedly produced enough energy (3.5 MJ) to power a household iron for about an hour.

“Fusion reactions emit no carbon, produce no long-lived radioactive waste,” per the Financial Times. A small cup of hydrogen fuel could, in theory, “power a house for hundreds of years.”

Why it matters: Breakthroughs that bring scientists closer to a near-limitless, safe, and clean energy source are the kind of things that people should actually get excited about, rather than building another decentralized social media app or the next Uber for “X”. 

Yes, but: We won’t be building fusion power stations anytime soon. The potential is exciting, but hurdles to overcome include creating much stronger, and more frequent reactions.—SB