Skip to Content
MIT News magazine

Riding for Fusion

MIT Cycling provides energy for the largest human-powered computation ever.
February 19, 2008

Before taking second place in its division at the 2007 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in ­December, the MIT Cycling team found time to do its part to advance fusion research. On December 11, in the Stata Center lobby, the team powered a ­supercomputer by ­bicycle energy alone, possibly setting a world record for the largest human-­powered computation. The supercomputer performed computations that model high-­temperature plasmas for simulations of tokamak machines, which are used for fusion experiments, explains Eric Edlund, one of several MIT cyclists who also research fusion.

One simulation was of a type required for the understanding and operation of a proposed fusion reactor called the ITER, according to John Wright, a research scientist at MIT’s plasma science and fusion center. “If we could chain down 10 MIT cyclists for a week and find a way to feed them, we might be able to get it all done on bicycle power alone,” he says.

The stunt was made possible in part by the low power requirements of the supercomputer, the SiCortex SC648, which is a Linux-based system built to be particularly energy efficient. The team submitted its results to Guinness and to Google’s Innovate or Die Pedal-­Powered Machine Contest.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.