Washington vs. the Merciless By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: 19 March 2011

IT IS HARD to read the news from Japan to the Persian Gulf and then reflect on American politics and not conclude, as scientists would say, that we’re running an uncontrolled experiment on the only country and planet we have. And what is that experiment? We’re basically taunting — there is no other word for it — the two most merciless forces on earth: the market and Mother Nature.

At a time when Japan is suffering a nuclear catastrophe that is likely to make the world even more dependent on oil and gas, at a time when the world’s top oil and gas producers are entering what will be, at best, an unstable, and, at worst, a viciously violent transition from autocracy to, one hopes, democracy, and at a time when the combination of the two could slow down global growth while we’re still trying to climb out of recession, America has no energy policy, no climate policy and no long-term plan to deal with its unsustainable deficit.

We’re basically saying to the market and Mother Nature: “Bring it on. We’re going to be dumb as we wanna be and put off all these big decisions, possibly until 2013, after the next presidential election, because our two political parties would rather focus on winning the next election and blaming the other guy than making hard choices.”

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The Promise of Fusion: Energy Miracle or Mirage?
Published: 11 October 2010

The U.S. has invested billions of dollars trying to create a controlled form of nuclear fusion that could be the energy source for an endless supply of electricity. But as a federal laboratory prepares for a key test of the latest technology, even the project's most enthusiastic supporters concede an actual pilot fusion plant is at least a decade away.

IN THE ROLLING brown hills of Livermore, Calif., looms a 10-story building the size of three football fields stuffed to the rafters with lasers, mirrors, crystals, optical amplifiers, and other exotic technology. This is the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a monument to science’s enduring obsession with fusion.

The NIF is home to the latest attempt to fuse two nuclei into one in a manner that does not result in a thermonuclear explosion. Inside this massive building, the world’s largest and highest-energy laser focuses the intense energy of 192 separate laser beams into an even more intense single beam aimed at a BB-sized target filled with hydrogen fuel, with the goal of creating a tiny star by replicating the process that powers the sun and similar celestial bodies.

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Disaster at the Top of the World
Published: August 22, 2010

Aboard the Louis S. St-Laurent

STANDING on the deck of this floating laboratory for Arctic science, which is part of Canada’s Coast Guard fleet and one of the world’s most powerful icebreakers, I can see vivid evidence of climate change. Channels through the Canadian Arctic archipelago that were choked with ice at this time of year two decades ago are now expanses of open water or vast patchworks of tiny islands of melting ice.

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