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Science

They Made An Interactive Virtual Tokamak And Buddy, It Rules

A look at my fully operational JET-style tokamak, churning out big numbers of what could be power but might in fact be deadly radiation.
I am a God of plasma fusion.
Screenshot: IPPEX

You can keep your damn Among Us, you clown, you child, you absolute and irredeemable goofus. Give me this interactive virtual tokamak, made by the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which for sophisticated science-knowers such as myself is the best video game of 2020, and perhaps ever.

A tokamak, you may recall, is a donut-shaped reactor that scientists use to create unfathomably hot plasmas, which under the exact right circumstances could produce self-sustaining fusion reactions. This is significant both for purely scientific reasons, and also because the first of these to generate more thermal energy than it uses will provide a blueprint for infinitely sustainable energy. Also it will put the awe-inspiring power and beauty of an actual star into the hands of humankind, although I have been assured by multiple scientists that a person can neither be thrown nor stumble into the little star, which I guess we will say is good news.

The idea of the game, so far as I can tell, is to build a tokamak, fire it up, and make some fuckin’ plasma. You can choose from a range of tokamak builds: the ITER type being built in southern France; the JET type, operating in Oxfordshire, UK, which is the current clubhouse leader in the race for the all-important energy breakeven point; or the ARC type, which the geniuses at MIT are hoping to develop into the world’s first commercial fusion reactor. There are a couple others, but I don’t know anything about them, and frankly I am too busy building virtual tokamaks to look them up!

After choosing your tokamak type, you can customize the dimensions to achieve MAXIMUM PLASMA STUFF. Then all that’s left to do is hit the on switch and start pumping power into that sucker. I have not yet caused a massive explosion that renders the Earth uninhabitable for all time, but by God I am on my way.

In the meantime, I have learned several cool things for achieving a high score, the value of which I do not remotely understand but which nevertheless tugs me onward as a scientist: hitting the right level of auxiliary power is important before you start increasing the density of little green blobs, which I assume are fuel particles; overloading the density of green blobs fucks up the walls and will eventually require a shut-down; there is a sweet-spot of triangulation in the shape of the torus that allows for greater density of green blobs; and with the ITER and JET type tokamaks, once you’ve maxed out the density (I find that point to be somewhere around 0.89 to 1.19, depending upon the use of a blanket), you can switch the power off and let that sucker run on its own, maximizing your score. My personal high score is 548, which I am pretty sure makes me technically a professional plasma scientist.

There are some neat-looking but extremely opaque stats, but more satisfying is this view of a little city being powered by your raging star juice. You will need to equip a blanket to convert plasma heat into electrical energy, but it’s fine also to skip the blanket and just burn through untold quantities of deuterium-tritium cocktail. Fuck it!

A little graphic shows my tokamak powering a little city, which is very satisfying.
The citizens of Christhompsontown owe me their very lives.

I encourage you to monkey around with this thing. Turn the sound on! The sounds are very cool, especially when you bring the walls right to the brink and the alarm siren starts wailing. CHERNOBYL TIME.*

[*Plasma scientists have assured me, for not the first time, that melting the walls of a tokamak would not even be dangerous, let alone Chernobyl-level dangerous. But a man can dream!]