China has an “Artificial Sun” and it Just Hit 100 Million Degrees Celsius

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10:38 PM HKT, Tue November 13, 2018 1 mins read

China continues to do its best to allay fears about its rise by generating headlines that feel like they’re coming out of the headquarters of The Grinch or, perhaps more timely, a Stan Lee-imagined baddie. The latest? Oh, just the testing of an artificial sun.

Perhaps feeling a little, ahem, eclipsed by Chengdu authorities supposedly weighing up a move to create their own moon, the Institute of Plasma Physics, affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, announced yesterday that they’ve been testing an “artificial sun” and that it recently reached a new threshold of “100 million [degrees] C in plasma and a heating power of 10 megawatts”. (That’s 180 million degrees for Fahrenheit fans.)

Sure, sure, but does this new sun come with a handy acronym? Of course it does: EAST. Here’s the Global Times to explain that name with a sentence we only understand about half of:

Independently designed and developed by China, the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) is the world’s first fully superconducting tokamak with non-circular cross-section and the country’s fourth generation experimental nuclear fusion device

Non-circular eh? Gotcha. So just how terrified should we be of this new giant leap toward China seemingly creating its own solar system? Actually not very. Turns out it’s not a sun 2.0 that China is about to launch into the sky, but a innovative nuclear fusion device that could help bring clean electricity to millions. Apparently, and this is according to the Global Times and CCTV, “the progress could pave the way for developing clean energy through nuclear fusion” and “the device could continuously provide clean energy for humanity”.

That’s certainly something we can get behind — and something China in particular desperately needs. Beijing’s Air Quality Index is currently at 301; for context, in Oakland California, an area affected by the forest fires sweeping the state, right now it’s at 161.

Cover image: CCTV (and yes, of course they put a flag on “the sun”)

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