Hot Docs 2017: Let There Be Light

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Today, the vast majority of the energy we produce comes from burning fossil fuels.  We generate smaller amounts by splitting large radioactive atoms, capturing a tiny percentage of the energy in sunlight, or other various techniques, but these are not currently capable of generating energy at the same cost and abundance of fossil fuels.  Let There Be Light documents the quest for an entirely different way to generate energy, one that promises to be cheap, plentiful, and pollution-free: fusion.

The film focuses on a megaproject called ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), funded by 37 different nations and currently under construction in the South of France.  The science in the film is well-explained and fascinating, and there are some quirky animated segments to help relate historical events important for fusion research.  The film pieces together interviews, on-site visits to ITER and other experimental fusion reactors, and these animated segments to tell a complete story about this nascent science.

The end goal of ITER is simple to explain but mind-numbingly complicated in its execution:  the reactor means to demonstrate a proof-of-concept for nuclear fusion, showing that it is feasible to generate more output energy than is used to operate the machine.  If it succeeds, as one of the chief physicists explains, a single liter of seawater could be used to generate the same amount of energy that we currently produce by burning 350 liters of petroleum.

If.

This is the main theme of Let There Be Light: the conflict between the optimism of scientists and the harsh logistics of such titanic undertakings.  The film champions the importance of basic research funding and public support of such lofty endeavors, and should serve as a powerful standard bearer for the science of nuclear fusion.

Screens:
Friday, April 28, 9:30 PM, Hart House
Saturday, April 29, 10:00 AM, Scotiabank
Friday, May 5, 12:30 PM, Hart House

Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs website.