Every community gets that sense of hope and dread when the new neighbors move in up the block. Nearby homeowners scrutinize the recent arrivals for certain clues to their probable level of annoyance. They seek out, within the crammed rental vans of household flotsam, indications they will be relatively normal, relatively tolerable. Usually these transitions are smooth, but every once in a while it happens. The newly arrived family is a nightmare. Their driveway and garage are suddenly an around-the-clock auto body shop. Audible arguments take place regularly from inside the house. The dancing blue lights of police cars provide their bi-monthly strobe effect at the edge of the property. Drugs are openly sold from the porch. Junk accumulates on the front lawn like lint in a cavernous belly button. Weird flags are hung from the gables, all fraught with mysterious significance. No member of the family is permitted to make eye contact with anybody else in the neighborhood. They are that family.
Almost as dreadful is when a nuclear fusion power plant is constructed nearby, a plant whose generator has a gooey plasma center that can be heated up to a balmy 150 million degrees Celsius, which, in this writer’s opinion, is basically the same thing as the family from hell. The combustible energy of the crazy clan up the block may never directly affect me, but just knowing it is there can be unnerving.
Forget horror films. When I want the crap scared out of me I read the Science Times. Nothing fills me with more helpless fear than stories about my dangerous lifestyle choices that I ignore everyday, or tiny protozoa that want to eat my brain, or boiling seas, or trendy mutations, or the next big extinction.
Last week I was reading about “The Eater” (that is how it is pronounced anyway, somewhat appropriately), a new energy producing capsule that relies on the same fusion reactions that take place in the sun. I couldn’t get over the reported temperature level inside the core. 150 million degrees Celsius! I was so shocked I actually went out of my way to convert the gargantuan number to Fahrenheit, as if this new number would be somewhat more reasonable to my limited, American sensibility of weights and measures. The result… 270 million degrees Fahrenheit. Just as ungraspable. The other day it was 95 degrees in Atlanta, which seemed pretty hot. Now multiply that by 1.5 million. Exposed to that type of heat I would be nothing more than a few freckles of dust in my Hoka running shoes. (My love for my running shoes is such that I firmly believe they could survive a nine-digit temperature flare up.)
“The Eater” is different from normal nuclear power plants in that it relies on fusion instead of fission. Instead of splitting things apart it joins them together. Which is a nice idea, in theory. Bringing things together. This huge generator is constructive, not divisive. It builds instead of tears down. It could double as a therapist. Marriages could be saved. Friendships repaired. Amity instead of enmity. Unite. Let everybody get in on a great big hug.
I had to remind myself that what was being united was deuterium and tritium. These molecules don’t like unity. They are crazed little anarchists. They say “Fuck You” to the slightest suggestion of solidarity. That is why scientists must heat the little bastards up to a billion degrees whatever scale to force them to fuse. Even the worst of enemies would melt together. Nothing can withstand that type of blast.
The designer of the Universe knew a thing or two about functional aesthetics, Feng Shui, spatial considerations. That is why she put the sun far enough from the earth to prevent immediate incineration. The sun is where molecules behave like drunken Irish poets at a pub on Saint Patrick’s Day. It is a wild riot filled with extreme behavior that, under normal conditions, would be unthinkable. To bring it to a neighborhood near you is to piss into the wind, except if your urine was 270 million degrees Fahrenheit.
I’ve been rethinking this whole thing. It dawned on me that artists need energy. Lots of it. I need more energy as an artist than I do as a regular human being. It’s not enough to have a campfire. We freaky creative types need an inferno. I saw it all in a different way. That is, I wanted a Topomak fusion reactor planted into my chest. Don’t fear The Eater!
The fusion reaction vessel is what every artist needs to rage appropriately. It reminded me of Picasso’s famous “The sun in my belly” line when asked why he painted. I always figured he was talking about the yellow pimple in our otherwise blue sky. Picasso knew full well, the sun is a raging ball of explosive radiation, heat and energy that consumes crushes and destroys. Anything less is a dead battery. So bring it, and the artists of tomorrow will be able to say, “I create because of the poloidal magnetic plasma neutrino releaser in the core of my chest.”
More Alembics to come.