Laser to Probe the Universe’s Secrets

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The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is about to fire a UV laser with a power of about 500 trillion watts at a tiny piece of iron.  What an amazing figure!  Would you be surprised to know that this technology also helps nuclear engineers test nuclear warheads?  Of course you wouldn’t.  The technology can also help us learn how to create commercial fusion power stations, too.  Score one for sustainability AND nuclear weapons, I guess.

An astronomer at UC Berkeley, Ramond Jeanloz, is using the laser technology to create the conditions that exist inside Jupiter and other large planets – what they assume the conditions are like, at least – which are expected to be at least a thousand times greater than those on Earth.  We really don’t know what these conditions are like because the planets are unexplored – but by the intense heat that will be generated by the laser should tell scientists how these conditions might exist.

500 trillion watts is just – it’s an almost unimaginable power figure.  I wish I could see that laser fire!

Thanks, Gizmodo and New Scientist!