Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 18 total)
  • Author
  • #813

    Folks, we’ve been developing a strategy for leveraging the Sci-fi, film, TV and literature communities to promote fusion. One idea is a “Best fusion in fiction” award. Another is a screenwriting contest to get fusion-themed film ideas out there. I’ll post about this elsewhere. In the meantime, we need to start with a list of movies already out there that capture the spirit of fusion, for better or for worse.

    Your suggestions are welcome.

    Please note, some films won’t be about fusion, but just have a great clip in them that fits in the conversation. Part of the goal here is to identify clips that would eventually work their way into a documentary on fusion. Of course, after that, we’d need to get permission to use said clips, etc. But for now, let’s just identify things.

    Some movies, and TV bits on the list already:

    Ipcress files (Michael Caine)
    Back to the Future (“Mr. Fusion”)
    Pi (take a bath!)
    Spidey 2 (Doc Ock, scientific method, tritium, mini sun)
    Igor (switch)
    Firefly (fusion engine)
    Serenity (gratuitous turbine)
    Life on mars “we had no evidence” (scientific method…)
    Iron man (many mysterious bits seemed somehow related. Not sure)
    Ghost and darkness (in point of fact – experimental process)
    Public Enemy (demonstration of faraday cage)
    Frequency (waves and radio working without being plugged in, auroras)
    Chain reaction (keanu!)
    Matrix (energy conservation – why no fusion?)
    Moon (He3 harvesting)
    Sahara (solar tower incineration)
    Movies about Tesla – “Prestige?”
    Reagan shilling for Borax (key ingredient in aneutronic fusion) and supporting nukes.

    Forbidden Planet – Per Eric: “whole thing run by fusion. Course it is blown up in the end, but you just have to avoid that dang telekinetic stuff.”


    A strange Nicholas Cage film comes to mind. The one where his children are abducted by aliens that are harbingers of solar flares destroying the planet. It’s nothing about fusion, but mega-flares are a plasma phenomenon.

    Plasma phenomena seem relevant to fusion.

    A bonus factor here is – when you’re explaining fusion to someone, or some facet of the science, and you’re getting that blank look, it helps to say “it’s like that movie where…”


    Another idea, parody your favorite scenes from fusion films. Videotape it. Put it on Youtube and send us a link.


    Iron Man specifically mentioned that his suit is fusion powered (dress for success). There was also a big one in his factory that resembles LaForge’s engine room. He didn’t seem to think fusion was any big deal, just one of his weekend projects…. and his prototyping shop makes my mouth water. Now that’s a credible spokesperson :coolsmile:

    Lost in Space’s Jupiter 2 was fusion powered, and it was sooooo reliable and efficient that they never broke down or ran out of fuel.

    Spock made at least one reference to a pre-fusion era.

    Isn’t matter-antimatter annihilation a form of fusion?

    I like the idea about the parodies. Those could get a lot of mileage!

    AvatarPhil’s Dad

    While we are on films; I thought this was interesting.

    “TRON is a science fiction film that takes place within a computer’s circuits. Protagonist Kevin Flynn is pulled into the computer via laser by the malevolent Master Control Program. However, official concern * reportedly centers around a portion of the movie’s live-action sequence which was filmed at Shiva, a nuclear fusion research facility created at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.”

    * Department of Homeland Security has designated the 1982 film TRON as “sensitive”, and ordered Walt Disney Studios to turn over all copies of the film in its possession. Retailers are also receiving notices to remove all copies of the film from stock shelves and turn them over to Federal officials. (2007)

    Just interesting – that’s all. :coolhmm:


    Rezwan wrote: Iron man (many mysterious bits seemed somehow related. Not sure)

    definitely Iron man.
    a portable, limitless power source that is safe enough to wear on your chest? can only be fusion, after all. πŸ™‚

    “Escape from New York” —
    i hear this has fusion as a hot topic, but i haven’t seen the film myself.

    nor have i seen the next two..

    “The Twilight Zone” Cold Fusion (2003) —

    Twilight (Physics in the Twilight) (1995 documentary short) —


    Let’s include “2010 The Year We Make Contact.” The Soviet Spaceship Alexei Leonov was powered by a Tokamak Fusion Reactor. Then there are the multiplying monoliths that cover and implode Jupiter creating fusion and a mini sun. πŸ™‚

    AvatarIvy Matt

    Fusion doesn’t get many mentions in the big two science fiction franchises, perhaps because it’s not considered sufficiently advanced. Star Trek spacecraft generally use matter-antimatter annihilation for their warp drives (except for Romulan vessels, which use artificial singularities), and Star Wars spacecraft use “reactors”, which might possibly be fusion reactors, but are usually considered to be “hypermatter reactors” in the Extended Universe literature.

    The most prominent mention of controlled fusion as a power source in the Star Trek franchise is in several Deep Space 9 episodes, where it is mentioned that the Cardassian-built space station is powered by laser-induced fusion reactors. It is generally understood that the impulse drive on a Starfleet vessel is powered by fusion reactors of some sort. All use deuterium fuel. Klingon ships use tritium in their warp cores, so it’s possible they may use it in their impulse reactors as well. Apart from space stations and impulse drives, fusion has been known to power at least one individual house.

    In Star Wars fusion is usually a small and mobile power source. A fusion furnace is mentioned in the Empire Strikes Back novelization, as Luke sets up his camp on Dagobah. Power droids are walking fusion reactors. On a larger scale, some of the smaller spacecraft may be powered by fusion reactors, and even those powered by hypermatter reactors may use fusion reactors for auxiliary purposes.

    As for plasma, it gets plenty of mentions in Star Trek, as well as in Star Wars lore.

    Plasma (or “electro-plasma”) is the life’s blood of Starfleet vessels, and seems to be the primary product of the reaction in the warp core. Its power generates the warp field in the warp nacelles. Starfleet vessels are full of plasma conduits, whose function is essentially the same as that of copper electric wires in our time. There are also various plasma weapons, most notably the Romulan plasma torpedo.

    In Star Wars lore some blasters (such as those used by the clone troopers) fire plasma bolts. These are particularly effective against droids. Most notably of all, the lightsaber blade is composed of plasma.

    The uses of boron in either franchise are left as an exercise for the reader.

    Sources: Memory Alpha, Wookieepedia, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual, The Empire Strikes Back (novel)


    Great summation, Ivy Matt!

    You know, they’re having a “Science of Star Trek” panel discussion at the World Science Festival, NYC.

    Friday, June 4, 2010, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM
    Galapagos Art Space

    The original Star Trek and its numerous successors were far ahead of their time, but just how far? Will science eventually catch up to this series’ nearly five-decade-old creations? With Lawrence Krauss and moderator Faith Salie, explore the plausibility of scientific phenomena from the Star Trek universe, including warp speed, time travel, humanoid aliens and whether anyone in our universe will be “beamed up” by transporter anytime soon.

    Perhaps I should crash the panel and raise the issue of the gap – getting from now to then, and ways sci-fi community could be more proactive in shining a light on emerging technologies, especially fusion.

    Anyone else out there want to go? All part of networking.


    A good leadin may be that 40 years ago, only Star Fleet had flip phones… and as Spock mentioned, fission didn’t last very long.

    AvatarPhil’s Dad

    There is a Dr Who story called Cold Fusion (5th and 7th incarnation). Sadly it has nothing to do with fusion, cold or otherwise.

    AvatarIvy Matt

    There’s an Enterprise episode and a Voyager novel named “Fusion”, neither of which has anything to do with nuclear fusion as far as I am aware.

    A recent visit to a bookstore confirms that hypermatter reactors are standard fare in post-prequel Star Wars lore. So far I have been unable to find evidence of any fusion-assisted hypermatter reactors. However, I did find that Tipoca City, site of the Republic’s secret cloning facility, is powered by a fusion generator. You can get a look at it if you click on the image labeled “Tipoca City cutaway”.

    Then I remembered I had a copy of the Star Wars Technical Journal. This reference work was published in 1994, so it predates the era of George Lucas revisionism. Some Star Wars fans may prefer it for that reason alone, but it’s not without its own problems and, for most fans, has been superseded by the newer, more widely available references.

    For about half of the vehicles, the technology is described in very general terms. The Millennium Falcon, for instance, contains fuel slug tanks, a hyperdrive motivator, a drive system matrix, and an emergency generator.

    The first technology that really caught my eye was the Star Destroyer’s power generator, which is called a “solar ionization reactor”. What do you suppose that means? It’s contained within a large sphere on the ship’s ventral ridge, so it’s not likely to have anything to do with photovoltaics. As a deep-space vessel, you wouldn’t want it to be dependent on nearby stars for its power anyway. So “solar” likely has some meaning other than “coming from the sun”. Perhaps it means something like “resembling the sun”. “Ionization”, well, that’s what happens to a gas when it becomes a plasma, right? Now, here’s the description from the book:

    Containing what is in essence a miniature sun, the heavily-shielded, carbonite and durasteel-reinforced heart of the ship’s SFS I-a2b solar ionization reactor was the one element that dictated the enormous size of the Imperial Star Destroyer. It feeds not only the hyperdrive motivation system, but the vessel’s propulsion, powerfeed and weapons networks as well, providing more than enough focused power for any task facing a Star Destroyer.

    What, no magnets? And focused power? πŸ˜‰

    The Description of the Death Star is even more explicit. The diagram of the Death Star’s reactor core shows a solar ionization reactor with a power generator just below it. Here’s the description:

    At the core of the Death Star was an immense, cavernous housing for the battle station’s power generator matrix. A fusion reactor of incredible proportions, fed by stellar fuel bottles lining its periphery, produced the raw energy demanded by the Death Star‘s superlaser and hyperdrive systems.

    Stellar fuel? Is that like hydrogen?

    The Correllian Corvette/Blockade Runner’s main reactor is also a solar ionization reactor according to this reference.

    Now for the fighters. The TIE fighters are uninteresting, of course, being powered by solar arrays. The X-Wing is powered by “Novaldex 04-Z cryogenic power cells and ionization reactor”. I’m not sure what an “ionization reactor” is, but it sounds less formidable than a “solar ionization reactor”. The X-wing’s propulsion system consists of four “Incom 4j.4 fusial thrust engines (rated at 300KTU)”. “Fusial” is a made-up word, but it could easily mean “having to do with fusion”. (And “KTU” is a made-up acronym. Although unexplained, the “TU” no doubt expands to “thrust units”.)

    With the A-wing, things are even more explicit. The A-wing draws its power from an “MPS BPr-99 power converter and fusion reactor”, and is propelled by twin “Novaldex J-77 ‘Event Horizon’ engines (rated at 400 KTU)”. The aft view of the A-Wing shows its fusion reactor exhaust port between the two engines, although this same part of the craft is labeled “thrust vector control” in later literature. Of course, the two functions are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    The B-wing is similar to the X-wing as far as power and propulsion systems are concerned. The Y-wing is powered by “Thiodyne 03-R cryogenic power cells and ionization reactor”. More interesting is the propulsion system, which consists of twin “Koensayr R200 ion fission engines (rated at 250 KTU).”

    Ion fission? *shrug* I think the “fission” part is to make it seem like older technology when compared with the newer fighters.

    Oh, and the EG-6 Power Droid “is a walking fusion generator that provides operating power for remote equipment on farms and at spaceports”.

    After checking Wookieepedia again, I see that most of this information has not been superseded, at least on Wookieepedia. I’d have to check the newer Vehicles & Vessels and Cross-Sections books to see what they say. Wookieepedia has pages on the A-wing’s fusion reactor and the Star Destroyer’s solar ionization reactor. The Death Star, however, has succumbed to revisionism, being powered by a hypermatter reactor now. I guess you just can’t trust something that large to a fusion reaction.

    Of course, none of this was mentioned on film, so….


    Star Trek is rife with fusion – they just consider it so commonplace it rarely takes centre stage. The reactors only get mentioned in passing, but they are present in most facilities including starships. Starships only use matter-antimatter reactors because i) it’s a useful plot device and ii) the justification is that you can’t make a compact fusion reactor that emits enough power to run a warp drive well enough for modern interstellar flight. DS9 runs on fusion (two of 6 reactors that originally powered the ore processing operations on board, if you believe the extended fiction).

    The “arc reactor” in Iron Man is probably supposed to be fusion. Tony Stark uses a palladium wire when constructing his prototype in a cave, which is a nod to “cold fusion” which uses palladium electrodes. It must convert energy to electricity incredibly efficiently or it would barbecue Tony from the inside from waste heat… and if it’s running on hydrogen it must get it’s fuel from electrolysing atmospheric water. Lots of impossible engineering, but great fun.

    If people are going to parody fusion in film … the archetypical use of fusion reactors in film is to provide something that goes “bang” very impressively.

    e.g. – The exploding hydrogen from the sonofusion reactor in Chain Reaction, the terraforming station in Aliens which is noted to be “a big fusion reactor”, the self sustaining fusion reaction in Spiderman 2 that threatens to eat New York.

    Perhaps it’s worthwhile to point out that fusion is almost certainly going to be really safe, because it’s so easy to interrupt the reaction. Maybe just have a lab-coated geek flip a switch to avert disaster… not that disaster would be imminent in real reactors. The first thing many people are going to say if you propose a fusion reactor in their neighbourhood (hopefully just before “Really? That cheap?”) is “Nukular! Eeeeek!”. Eroding the perception of danger that real-life fission accidents, fusion weapons and Hollywood have attached to fusion would be useful.

    Star Trek is a positive image of fusion as a depiction of a future where it’s so commonplace and accepted that it’s rarely mentioned. So is the Mr Fusion in Back to the Future. Chain Reaction puts forward the energy message well, right at the beginning, with a great speech (albeit focussing too much on electrolysing hydrogen and not enough on the fusion) – what a shame it then spoils it by blowing up a few city blocks. Maybe we should be lobbying well-known scriptwriters to put sensible, practical, reliable, everyday fusion reactors into their scripts….

    AvatarIvy Matt

    If you’re concerned about the legitimacy of plasma physics, let alone nuclear fusion, you might just want to skip this comment.

    If you have seen The Phantom Menace, and still recall having seen it, you may remember that the Gungan army fought off the droid army with what appeared to be some kind of children’s toy. These “energy balls” supposedly consist of a blue plasma contained within an organic shell. However, I’m not quite sure what sustains the plasma, or how the blue slime fits into the picture.

    But wait! There’s more:

    You may recall that the climactic lightsaber battle began in the hangar and quickly moved into a large room with catwalks and vertical tubes glowing with a purple light. These tubes contained plasma, which was being mined from below the city. What’s more, the planet Naboo is an exporter of plasma. In fact, plasma is its primary export. In fact, the export of plasma was an important factor that contributed to its dispute with the Trade Federation, setting into motion the events of The Phantom Menace, the Prequel Trilogy, and the Original Trilogy. Now you know.


    Ivy Matt wrote:
    If you have seen The Phantom Menace, and still recall having seen it, you may remember that the Gungan army fought off the droid army with what appeared to be some kind of children’s toy. These “energy balls” supposedly consist of a blue plasma contained within an organic shell. However, I’m not quite sure what sustains the plasma, or how the blue slime fits into the picture.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 18 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.