Last week was quite a whirlwind — NJ for a class, visiting family and friends, and a college reunion, back to SF, only to go to Sacramento on business. But I’m finally home, thank goodness! And because there was such a whirlwind, I have a few impressions I’d like to share with you:
Can you go home again?
It’s very odd to walk around a college campus where you spent almost all of 4 years (I worked as a research assistant in the summers, and stayed for a month or so after graduation, so it really was almost all of 4 years). There is this time travel experience — you know you are you, and it’s 2007, but then, you hit a part of campus that hasn’t changed since you lived there, and... you’ve traveled back in time. I walked by a dorm I lived in one summer, and the window of “my” room had a window fan in it, just like I had. It literally stopped me in my tracks. When am I? It’s as if the present is layered onto the past in the physical place. (Read “Time and Again” by Jack Finney for a terrific novel based on this premise — and no, the movie just isn’t as good).
But then there is also this sense of the place growing and evolving as the community grows and evolves, as everything evolves. Some buildings are the same; others have only been changed on the inside. There are new buildings, housing new scholarly departments and new students. Some trees have gotten bigger, some have died and been replaced by smaller ones. The black squirrels seem to have been replaced by gray ones. The faces, of course, have changed, but the feel remains the same. Engineering students are still working their butts off -- I commiserated with a current engineering student, and one who’d been out 5 years, about how hard we all worked as undergrads. And everyone still feels connected.
So if you can accept that everything changes, then you can go home again.
I had the good fortune to get a ride (thanks, Julie & Rich!) out to the Plasma Physics Lab, which is 4 miles from the main Princeton campus, for the first time ever, so I could take a tour of the facilities. The PPL is one of the few experimental locations in the world for the development of nuclear fusion energy. Currently used nuclear energy is produced by fission, splitting atoms, and it leaves nasty by-products. By contrast, fusing types of hydrogen atoms to make helium, which is an inert gas, also frees up vast amounts of energy, and leaves only the helium as a byproduct.
Here’s the good news: according to the tour director, who is a physicist (although the communications director of the lab and not an experimenter), commercially viable fusion energy is pretty much inevitable. Certainly many things remain to be worked out, but apparently the question is not if, but when. His view is definitely by 2050. The (slightly) bad news is that the PPL would like to be doing experiments 25 weeks a year on the test reactors they have, and are only funded by the Dept. of Energy for 12 weeks a year. How much sooner could this happen if the lab were fully funded? Can we afford to wait until 2050?
A further question is which nation will commercialize fusion energy, and thereby gain the business for putting these small reactors everywhere. Other research institutions are in Russia, China, the EU, and Japan. While the research is apparently a joint endeavor of these countries with India at this point, commercializing it may not be.
All in all, from the Earth’s point of view, this is the most hopeful thing I’ve heard in years.
10 years ago, when I told people at my reunion that I did clairvoyant readings and coaching (which wasn’t called that then), most people who didn’t know me well, and a few who did, looked at me like I was crazy. It wasn’t much better 5 years ago.
But this time, the reaction I got from most people was “Cool!” I had pretty deep conversations, where I was passing on psychic information, with a couple of people who I’m sure wouldn’t have given my information any credence back then. And this is a pretty mainstream group of professionals. Is it because the culture has changed? Or because we’re older? Or because I speak about it in a way that’s easier to relate to? I don’t know, but I sure hope it’s the first of these. Anyway, my sense is that it’s safe to come out of the closet with your abilities (for those of you who have been in one).