We live in stranger times, when the day there is good news is now a red letter day. Today happens to be one of those days. I woke up to the news that a very close friend had a healthy baby boy. What a delight it is to be an uncle again. A few minutes later, I learned about the pending arrest and extradition of a con man and sociopath, Sam Bankman-Fried. And to cap it all, the Laurence Livermore Laboratory announced that it had achieved a breakthrough that makes fusion energy a reality. 

On Dec. 5, a team at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history to reach this milestone, also known as scientific energy breakeven, meaning it produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it. 

LLNL’s experiment surpassed the fusion threshold by delivering 2.05 megajoules (MJ) of energy to the target, resulting in 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output, demonstrating for the first time a most fundamental science basis for inertial fusion energy (IFE).

Fusion is the process by which two light nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy. In the 1960s, a group of pioneering scientists at LLNL hypothesized that lasers could be used to induce fusion in a laboratory setting. Led by physicist John Nuckolls, who later served as LLNL director from 1988 to 1994, this revolutionary idea became inertial confinement fusion, kicking off more than 60 years of research and development in lasers, optics, diagnostics, target fabrication, computer modeling and simulation and experimental design.

From LLNL Press Release

The hohlraum that houses the type of cryogenic target used to achieve ignition on Dec. 5, 2022, at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility.

So how should you view today’s announcement? I don’t think it is anything more than a significant step forward. My dear friend Steve Crandall, a scientist, interprets today’s news more intelligently on his blog. Here is a tiny bit that gives the proper context to today’s news. 

This facility has been running for about a dozen years.  It has been solving enormous engineering and applied science problems along the way as well as contributing to the pure science of understanding plasmas at this scale and temperature. In my mind it’s a triumph of instrumentation technology along with the control of some difficult to manage parameters. Even the fuel pellets are very difficult to make and test. Moving this line of fusion forward seems like a long shot. A factor of five improvement may be possible with a redesign, but they need more than a thousand.   Not impossible, but there’s a long path ahead.

In other words, it is unclear when or if this will become a commercial reality. And even if that does, like all such technologies, the early use case for the breakthrough might be in some military applications. This is not a silver bullet; we must find ways to move forward with other technologies that help address the harsh realities of climate change and the human race’s energy needs. 

What has been achieved underscores the importance of a national lab and monumental, painstaking work that takes a lot longer than whiz-bang time cycles of venture-based innovation. I am sure we will soon hear a lot of startups and pitches around fusion energy, but we have to remind ourselves of the pandemic of overpromises and the reality of time. 

Over the past few weeks, billionaires behaving badly has been the thrust of the news that has sucked up our attention. It has been grating to see modern-day Barnum’s undermine the work of scientists. The “fusion energy” breakthrough, while unlikely to have any commercial impact, at least in my lifetime, is a good reminder that fundamental science and scientists who pursue it matter. 

And to close out the day, I received one more bit of good news: my dear friend Bijan Sabet, a successful investor in companies such as Twitter & co-founder of Spark Capital, has been named US ambassador to the Czech Republic. There isn’t a better person to represent American values than Bijan. While I will miss going on photo walks with him, I will look forward to seeing what he captures with his lens in his new home. 

December 13, 2022. San Francisco 


A coffee with Chris Michel and Bijan Sabet turned into a full-blown photo session. I thought this photo represented Bijan the best — with his Leica, captured on Chris’ Leica in my everyman’s Leica, the iPhoneX.

Photo 05/30: iPhoneX  Portrait mode, f2.4, 1/120th of a second.

A Set of Photo Books by Joshua Allen Harris

I was introduced to Joshua Allen Harris, a few years ago by friend and photography enthusiast, Bijan Sabet. I had admired Harris’ work on Instagram — his reductionist style of visual story telling was something that spoke to me at a very deep level. I went out to Brooklyn one evening to make photos with Joshua Bijan, Naveen and Chris Ozer.

Harris, during that photowalk, told me about this project he had been working on for quite sometime. He was taking photos of Broadway and wanted to chronicle that as a photo story, that he was compiling one frame of film at a time. None of these photos were shared on Instagram or any other form of social media. He only picked up a Leica M6 camera about two years.


Earlier this month, he finally released his work – a visual narrative essay in the form of three books: Tahoma, Belmont and Broadway. This is my first acqusiton of the year and it is what I call a soul satisftying shopping spree. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of these three books — and going to cherish them for a long time.

FYI, There are only 50 copies each of these books. You can buy them from Harris’ website.

All photos by me: Lecia M-Monochrom with Leica f2/35mm lens.

Fresh Air

After four days of being laid-up nursing the worse kind of summer flu, I finally dragged myself out of the apartment today. I was desperate for an espresso and really needed to remove the cobwebs of the mind.  Also, I had a morning meeting with a fantastic startup founder whose boundless enthusiasm helped give an … Continue reading Fresh Air