About Serious Games

Serious games (SGs) or persuasive games are computer and video games used as persuasion technology or educational technology. They can be similar to educational games, but are often intended for an audience outside of primary or secondary education. Serious games can be of any genre and many of them can be considered a kind of edutainment.

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Friday, 26 December 2008

Two desktop-printer engineers quit their jobs to search for the ultimate source of endless energy: nuclear fusion. Could this actually succeed?

The source of endless energy for all humankind resides just off Government Street in Burnaby, British Columbia, up the little spit of blacktop on Bonneville Place and across the parking lot from Shade-O-Matic blind manufacturers and wholesalers. The future is there, in that mostly empty office with the vomit-green walls -- and inside the brain of Michel Laberge, 47, bearded and French-Canadian.

According to a diagram, printed on a single sheet of white paper and affixed with tape to a dusty slab of office drywall, his vision looks like a medieval torture device: a metal ball surrounded on all sides by metal rods and bisected by two long cylinders. It's big but not immense -- maybe 10 times as tall as the little robot man in the lower right corner of the page who's there to indicate scale.

What Laberge has set out to build in this office park, using $2 million in private funding and a skeletal workforce, is a nuclear-fusion power plant. The idea seems nuts but is actually, he says, not at all far-fetched. Yes, he'll admit, fusion is generally considered the kind of nearly impossible challenge undertaken only by huge universities or governments. Yes, fusion has a stigma to overcome; the image that it is fundamentally bogus, always and forever 20 years away, certainly doesn't help. Laberge would probably even admit that the idea of some Canadians working in a glorified garage conquering one of the most ambitious problems in physics sounds absurd.

But he will also tell you that his twist on a method known as magnetized target fusion, or MTF -- to wildly oversimplify, a process in which plasma (ionized gas) trapped by a magnetic field is rapidly compressed to create fusion -- will, in fact, work because it is relatively cheap and scalable. Give his team six to 10 years and a few hundred million dollars, he says, and his company, General Fusion, will give you a nuclear-fusion power plant.

If (and this is a truly serious if) Laberge and his team succeed, the rewards could be astounding: nearly limitless, inexpensive energy, with no chemical combustion by-products, a minimal amount of extremely short-lived radioactive waste, and no risk of a catastrophic, Chernobyl-level meltdown. "It's an astonishing story," says Mike Brown, the founder of Chrysalix Energy, the venture-capital firm that provided the angel funding for General Fusion, and who now leads the company's search for backing. "If Michel makes it work, he's a Nobel Prize winner."

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