Richard Dinan is more than a TV reality star from popular British show "Made in Chelsea."
He's also the head of a company that wants to put fusion reactors on rockets.
The show was a double-edged sword, he said, as he had to fight to be taken seriously.
Richard Dinan is the CEO of Pulsar Fusion, a UK firm aiming to use nuclear fusion to propel rockets in space. He is also the grandson of a British earl and appeared in several seasons of the reality-TV show "Made in Chelsea" which follows the lives of socialites and aristocrats. This as-told-to is based on a transcribed conversation and has been edited for length and clarity.
Nuclear fusion has always captivated me. The implications can be pretty major: it's a milestone in our evolution as a species.
In my company, Pulsar Fusion, we believe that we'll have fusion for propulsion demonstrated well before energy, and the cold vacuum of space is the perfect place for it.
SpaceX has really surprised the world and is able to put heavy equipment into space reliably. And so suddenly, being able to do a fusion experiment in space is actually very practical.
While fusion is my whole career now, it wasn't always. In 2012, 2013, and 2015, I was on the TV show "Made in Chelsea."
When you're starting out, you try all sorts of different business approaches. In 2012, reaching large numbers of people was hard. But my friend, one of the first to do "Made in Chelsea," had something like 50,000 followers from it on social media.
I realized that the television is a power. That was a power worth looking at.
I was no great success at it. I didn't forge a career in television from it. Was it a smart thing in terms of my career? It was probably a double-edged sword.
I got a little bit of a kick from that at the beginning, which is no bad thing. It's been controversial. A lot of people maybe wouldn't have wanted to write about some scientists doing science, but they would write about me.
I also got a chance to sneak my passion for fusion on the show. After persuading the producers, we got the entire cast into a lecture theatre to listen to me talk about physics for a day — though not much made the final edit.
But it did give me a lot of prejudice at the beginning. That show was quite big in England. You turn up to science conferences, and that's not the best look.
But I learned a lot from it. Because when I started putting my ideas across, I had to be so sure that what I said was right. If I had a Ph.D. and I got it wrong, it wouldn't be such a big deal.
But, I didn't have a degree — for them, I was just some guy from the television. If I got it wrong, people would say I didn't know what I was talking about.
I had no excuse, I just had to work a lot harder and so that motivated me not to get up and to triple-check my work.
Eventually it became more forgiving. I have been for over a decade now immersed in the study of fusion technologies. I have been speaking to the very best scientists in the world, the people who had their helmets on inside these reactors, to hear what the challenges were.
Now, in a practical way, I'm not relying on someone to buy my story and invest in me.
Pulsar Fusion has a pedigree and the know-how to build conventional space engines that we deliver to aerospace clients. I'm selling products to space companies now.
And we were doing well at it. We're now working to show that we can do fusion too.
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