The failure of 'Big' Science and its consequences in the 21st Century

The Pharaoh walked at a brisk pace through the corridor of the royal palace followed by his advisor who struggled to keep up. The advisor moved with a staggered gate, his shoulders hunched over, his eyes wet with tears. Mucus flowed from his nose, but he dared not sniffle. Nor was he in a state of mind to hastily wipe it away.
Cool darkened corridors gave way to the brilliant lit inner palace court where the sun beat down upon the gathering of twenty loin clothed men, their bodies prostrate on the ground, their voices a low, sobbing moan.
"Master architect! Stand up!" The Pharaoh commanded.
A middle-aged figure in the forefront painfully rose from the hot limestone and stood bowed in shame. His pallor was a sickly white and his breathing was labored.
For what seemed an eternity, the Pharaoh stared unbelieving at them, his mouth agape. He seemed reluctant to advance the moment, as if by delaying, the disaster would remain a deniable falsehood.
Finally he spoke.
"Master architect - tell me it is not true."
"My lord..." The master architect faltered, unable to find eloquent words for this disastrous occasion, he finally blurted out,
"...It is true, Sire."
The Pharaoh was numb with shock. The sides of the Meidum Pyramid had collapsed. Its angle had been too steep, the project too ambitious. Twenty five years of resources, grueling labor and the work of a generation had collapsed in seconds. Worst of all, their quest for immortality was irrevocably lost. They had failed. 

When I was a teenager - that would be back in the mid sixties - our science teacher would occasionally bring us into the assembly hall and show movies on an old projector. Not the kind of stuff that kids my age particularly wanted to see, but we nonetheless sat and idly watched documentaries heralding the wonders of a new scientific age; an age that was right 'round the corner. Although I must confess to have slept through or forgotten the majority of the content, I remember a particular documentary movie reel which related to the coming age of controlled nuclear fusion.
Men in white lab coats and clipboards would expound to those of us who were on the receiving end of the magnificent strides being made in this field. I remember taking it all in; I believed them - and why not? Men of science were sending Mankind to the moon. I could rest in the comfort of my teenagehood knowing that they would forge the path and I could expect controlled nuclear fusion sometime in the foreseeable future. Unlimited free energy available to all who could flick an on/off switch.
I believed them, politicians believed them. Throughout the following decades, the main bulk of our world's energy research resources went into pushing the boundary of knowledge ever forward.
It cost plenty, but that was OK; I was in my twenties now but still didn't really know much about the subject matter. Neither did those who funded them.
Our species was gambling its precious resources on a one shot deal - controlled nuclear fusion. Our species was at the height of its fossil fuel civilization and we desperately needed something to supplant that resource when it ran out.
This was our ticket to the stars!
The men in the white coats were coming to take us away; we had little doubt that they would succeed in their quest.

"...Once we set sail to catch a star  - we had to fail it was to far..."

Excerpt from a 'Cream' song, (1960's)

But they didn't create the fusion reactors that were to be our energy prayers of the next century.
They failed. 
The great experimental fusion reactors into which billions of research dollars had been poured were a bust, the result being that our species has quite possibly lost its bid for the stars - and and with it a sustained civilization.
"Well," you might say, "At least the men of science tried their best."

There you have it.
Our species might soon make that unified sigh of evolutionary resignation and prepare to disembark onto the sea of evolutionary oblivion; the lot of every earthbound species to date.
A shrug. No one is to blame.

Oh, but not so fast!

Before our species heads into that dark night, I surely want to express my anger. Someone is to blame for this disastrous failure and I want to point fingers. I want to place the blame where it belongs.
It was the scientific men in white lab coats with the clipboards. That's right - the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the Science fusion community!

In order to create sustained nuclear fusion, one needs a comprehensive understanding of the nature of plasma - the fourth state of matter - something that our boys in white coats did not take the time to bother with.
The scientists cheated; essentially, they broke with their credo and followed an unscientific path.
Initially, they thought they could treat the high temperatures of the plasma state as if it followed the laws of gasses, which it does not. Rather than taking their time and launching a plethora of smaller research programs to understand the basic nature of the plasma, they - in their supreme arrogance - pushed ahead and squandered our precious resources on a giant technology that did not work.
Catering to the needs of the so-called fusion researchers, the lion's share of their all-consuming project strangled less sexy, yet - as it has turned out -  indispensable plasma research which should have been the groundwork for substantial fusion research.
All we have to show for the outlay on this 'Big Science' is a graveyard of giant fusion reactors that yielded results so scant that they are way out of proportion to the resources that were expended on them. Little of consequence has been gleaned from this science debacle, because - it is not science.

The controlled fusion research of the 20th century is akin to a gathering of blind men building a cage to catch an animal they had never seen.
Given the magnitude of the stakes - the survival of our civilization, and possibly our species - it is not an exaggeration to state that this waste is a betrayal of scientific principals leading to a travesty of epic proportions; an act of unforgivable treachery perpetrated upon our species.
In a less benign civilization, those responsible - and their families - would have to forfeit their lives for a crime of this magnitude.
However, unlike the sudden collapse of the Meidum Pyramid, our civilization's disaster is unfolding silently and over a period of decades, its gradual, unspectacular failure completely escaping public attention.

I doubt if politicians will ever again have the confidence to shell out the vast amounts of monies for such projects, even - sadly - if the groundwork is completed before they venture to build another research fusion reactor.

Consequently, as far as I can see, all that's left to pin ones hopes on, are the amateurs tinkering away in their garages. These folks have come through in the past; we can only hope that they will carry the torch to the future, because right now - at this juncture -  they really are all that's left.

"The Riddle of the Pyramids" By Kurt Mendelsson, Sphere Books,1974

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