When the nuclei of two atoms join to form the nucleus of a heavier element with the release of energy you have, voila, nuclear fusion.
When you get scientists all over the country saying, "Yes, we've confirmed," or "No, it doesn't work," you have, voila, fusion confusion.You also have media confusion.
Announcements of scientific discoveries, especially ones as mind-boggling, complex and controversial as the University of Utah fusion announcement, pose big dilemmas to news outlets.
Inevitably, we are accused of either overplaying the story or underplaying it. It's especially difficult for the hometown media.
The New York Times can sit back, skepticism written all over its gray pages, and act like the story barely exists. We can't do that, nor would we want to.
While the Deseret News hasn't exactly pulled out the headline we're saving for the Second Coming, I have to admit we did get excited about this story. A few people, including our own Media Monitor, Milton Hollstein, have mildly criticized this newspaper for gung-ho fusion coverage.
We're sensitive to those charges. We don't want to indulge in gee-whiz, cheerleading journalism. But, my goodness, when you have a number of the state's leading scientists saying this may be the discovery of the century, the answer to the world's energy needs, you can bet we're going to report that - with big headlines.
We've also been careful to report the negative side - the scientists who are skeptical, the failed confirmations at other universities, the controversy over how the discovery was announced.
Put yourself in the place of one of our editors sitting behind a desk at 6 a.m. and start answering these questions (and do it in a matter of minutes): How big is this story? How likely is it that the claims are true? Does the story run on A1 or B1? Is it the lead story or should it be placed lower on the page? How large should the headline be? How does it rate compared to other world, national and local stories?
It's easy to second guess. It's tough out there on the firing line.
Please remember: We're a Utah metropolitan newspaper. We're not the good, gray, East Coast, nationally oriented New York Times. We cover the news of Utah - give you more and do it better - than anyone else. We care about Utah and your community. And when a big story of national and worldwide interest breaks right here on our front doorstep you can bet we'll pull out the stops and give it the best coverage imaginable. We'll put our top people on it, give it big headlines and go for broke. Better too much than not enough, in my opinion.
That doesn't mean we lose perspective and become a cheerleader. We'll cover all sides. And if the whole thing fizzles and becomes an embarrassment for Utah, we'll cover that just as aggressively.