Today’s the 70th Birthday of the Trinity Test, the Day Mother America Birthed A Bomb

The Trinity Test fireball, 0.016 seconds after ignition

The Trinity Test fireball, 0.016 seconds after ignition

That’s not one of those hilarious Scrubbing Bubbles with the little yellow beard, that’s the Trinity nuclear test.  Scientists figure that the top of that bubble was at 200 meters high, and that photo was taken 0.016 seconds after the ignition of the device.

Today is the 70th birthday of the Manhattan Project’s Trinity Test — the 70th birthday of America’s nuclear child being born into the world.  In my humble opinion, this is the worst kind of light we’ve invented.  General Leslie Groves, Robert Oppenheimer, and their brilliant band of scientists and craftsmen created an explosion that created a brand new world for all of us on Earth to live in, and to fear.  As a matter of speaking created from a matter of fact, just the concept of using one of these weapons of true mass destruction stops any of us from using one of these weapons.  It’s a political term called Mutually Assured Destruction.

General Leslie Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer at the Trinity test site zero point

General Leslie Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer at the Trinity test site zero point

Project Trinity happened at the Alamagordo Bombing and Gunnery Range, now called Holloman AFB (also called White Sands Proving Ground back in the day).  Here’s a clip from The History Channel of the explosion — this right here is uncut footage of the blast, declassified a while ago.  Multiple camera angles and lens angles give some horrifying footage of this monster, and it is only a fraction of the weapons we have today:

Here’s another kind of terrifying video that I think most people have probably seen, but most definitely needs to be seen:

Of all of the video footage available of the Trinity nuclear test, I think there is one video for me that does it — it’s Robert Oppenheimer reading from the Bhagavad Gita. Just listen to his voice, read the look on his face. He knew exactly what he had done, and what he had put in the hands of America’s war-hungry defense managers.  What you’re going to watch is the face of a man who is terrified of what he just invented:

instrumentation bunker

Here’s to hoping we invent better uses of light in the future for the sake of us all.

Obama VS Perry On Energy Policy [INFOGRAPHIC]

I gotta tell you all…  I am NOT looking forward to this next round of political hoohaa that we’re about to experience full-force over television, radio, the web, and pretty much every other place that advertising for candidate A, B, C, or backwards R.  (Sorry, I was thinking about my friend Tatiana from outside of Moscow, I thought I’d throw a joke in for her)

One thing that we all need to keep an eye on is energy policy.  Holy crap is this important, folks.  In order to shape the future of lighting and energy consumption, grid improvements and distribution, sustainable collection and storage, we need to know where everybody stands on this stuff that wants to be our “president.”  We’ve been shown over the last long few years that we need to have a larger collective role in making decisions because unfortunately the people we keep choosing just can’t be trusted to do what’s right over what’s most lucrative.

I find this infographic pretty interesting – here’s a link to the full-size infographic, the one I’ve posted here is smaller.  Check it out:

Remembering Chernobyl, 25 Radiation-FIlled Years Later

As many of you know, today is the 25th anniversary of the nightmare scenario that occurred on April 26, 1986 in Pripyat, Ukraine.  The Chernobyl nuclear power plant performed an experiment that day that somehow caused massive catastrophic failure of critical systems which then caused a catastrophic explosion of the reactor and reactor complex.  Highly radioactive fallout then traveled all over Europe, Russia, Belarus, and other places in that region of the continent.

Look at that image below.  That must have been one unbelievably crazy explosion – I remember designing a play in undergraduate school called Wormwood, about the experience of the firefighters (who were called “Liquidators”) at Chernobyl (which means Wormwood, funny enough), fighting this crazy nuclear fire.  I think back on that point in my design career wondering if even knowing what I know now about design now if I could have ever made that fireman’s monologue creepier.  What a nightmare.

A nightmare.  Sound anything like what’s happening at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant damaged by the earthquake and tsunami a few short months ago?  Perhaps not on the same scale, and let me say that it’s not on the same scale YET, but the fallout and problems of Chernobyl are evident in the disaster that’s taking place at the Fukushima plant.  It really, truly is a nightmare.  Children of children who were exposed to radiation from Chernobyl are experiencing terrible symptoms and mutations, cancer and leukemia.  Thyroid cancers.  Bowel cancers.  Blood cancers.  Babies from people exposed to the radioactive fallout are born mutated, changed, with a short future.

This little guy is a victim of a nuclear power accident:

I find that I can’t look at that little guy without wondering to myself if his little life is really worth electricity for the rest of us from the damage of nuclear power.  You have to understand something – I am not completely against the use of nuclear power in total – there are many uses for it, from medical to science and engineering, and on a smaller scale, generating electricity and light.  The use of sustainable energy sources needs to have a larger slice of the energy grid worldwide so that we can depend less on nuclear power and more on sustainable technologies like solar, wind, wave, and geothermal systems.  Look at Japan right now – Fukushima 1 (dai-ichi means Number One) has been classified as some rating on a scale that we’ve made up to show the severity of nuclear disasters.  The Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster has been given a seven on this scale, which is called the INES Scale, or International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.

There have only been two accidents worthy of being a seven on this INES scale – Chernobyl, and now Fukushima Dai-ichi.

This scale is a bit daunting.  The PDF of the INES rating scale is here, and it’s a PDF link.  I’ve grabbed some screenshots from it, but I recommend reading through it, as it isn’t a long read.

If you look at a “Major Accident” level event, or Level 7, you’ll notice the following:

Major release of radioactive material with widespread health and environental effects requiring implementation of planned and extended countermeasures.

Then, if you look at what some of the studies done by the UN have said about the grounds around Chernobyl, in Pripyat, and in the surrounding areas, you wouldn’t believe your eyes.  The radioactive products of the Chernobyl explosion were Iodine-131Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 – Strontium and Cesium have half lives that are around 29 years. That’s 29 years for the radiation to decrease by half.  Think of a large area of land that is pretty much uninhabitable – lots and lots of very negative things have come of Chernobyl:

  • Closed lake contamination in fish and other sea food for several decades at a minimum
  • Forest Food contamination (mushrooms, animals, nuts, berries, grains) for decades
  • Agricultural products (crops, cattle, grazing animals) contaminated for decades
  • Surface and ground water contamination
  • Once livable land rendered useless

Over 350,000 people were evacuated and resettled due to Chernobyl – and if you’ve looked at the map around Pripyat, the area wasn’t as populated as the area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi area is populated.  Have you placed Japan next to Russia?  There just isn’t a lot of land mass there to spare!  Can Japan afford to have a space that large unoccupied for that long?  There are 130 million people in Japan – where are a quarter to a half of those people going to go if the land is deemed uninhabitable?


I would be remiss if I did not admit that there are some serious issues to overcome with nuclear power generation, and even more remiss if I were to ignore the fact that right now it would take a pretty towering investment both in money and in land mass in order to switch Japan completely over to sustainable tech for its power generation.  The thing about nuclear is that it is pretty cheap up front, and in a very small dedicated space you can generate a lot of power, and 24/7 power, too – at some point, solar will stop charging for the day and you then rely on batteries, wind relies on – well – wind, and wave and tidal relies on the tides.  Geothermal power seems to be a very good opponent to nuclear; there is a whole lot of heat waiting for the taking for myriad uses under the ground – it could replace the need to generate heat with nuclear materials.

What’s the answer here?  Well, my answer is that I have no f***ing idea.  I know that we have a problem.  You know that we have a problem.  What are we going to do about it?  We need to be looking at energy storage technology, distribution technology, lighting technology, electrical technology, and somehow developing a way to tech around our energy problems.

Don’t you love how completely generalized that last statement was?  I know, but I also know that I wish in my heart that I could just sh** kilowatts for the world to have, too.

Some interesting links:

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s daily update page for the Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant Disaster

the Chernobyl Disaster

the UN’s Chernobyl page

the UN’s Assessment of the Chernobyl disaster

IAEA’s FAQ on Chernobyl


There Has Never Been a Better Time to Stop Using Non-Renewables, Ever

This is going to seem like a ramble, and I’m okay with that, but I think that something needs to be said. It’s time that we stop depending on the Middle East and despotic regimes like Libya for the oil we use to light our world. While we’re at it, we should also convert from using coal and natural gas to forms of energy that we’re not going to run out of to forms of energy that are essentially good forever. I mean, really – when solar power runs out, we’ve bigger problems to worry about then, don’t we.

Doesn’t this seem like such a no-brainer? Switching from a fuel that is going to run out to a fuel that will never run out?

In my perfect Utopian world that obviously only exists in my head, we harness solar fully in just three states, wind in just two states, tidal and wave on the coasts, and provide the necessary gear for people to very easily use solar and wind at home. I’m a lighting designer, and I imagine a world where every touring production travels with a truck that has a solar and battery setup to self-sustain the show’s power needs. Wouldn’t that be just awesome and amazing?

Those kind of systems exist now. Yep, that’s no bull.

You know what the really sick and creepy thing about all of this energy generation business is? We actually CAN do exactly what exists in my head. We have the technology, desire, and ability to turn our power from coal and oil to wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal, among other forms. But, as we live in a country (and on a planet) that is so addicted to non-renewables like oil and coal, a change like this can only come if we demand it. All of us. Together.

When a place like Libya undergoes a revolt like is experiencing now, everything goes to sh*t around the world. Gas prices skyrocket. Everything costs more because the price of oil goes nuts. I just heard on NPR a few days that a barrel of oil just hit $100 bucks on the market. It’s not expected to get much cheaper any time soon, either. How can we continue to keep doing this, folks? It’s not just our gas that’s going to continue to climb honed and higher, it’s going to be everything in our lives – electricity bills, heating and cooling costs, light and lighting, food, clothing, all of it.

Something that we cannot overlook now is the danger of nuclear power.  Our brothers and sisters in Japan are experiencing the repercussions of the dangers of nuclear power for light after this last unprecedented earthquake and subsequent tsunami.  Have you been watching the news about the fires happening at the Fukushima Daiishi and Daini plants outside Tokyo right now?  Wider protection zones are being requested and considered by high ranking officials around the nuclear power plants in Tokyo, we’re haring news about meltdowns, radioactive fallout, and radiation sickness dangers.  It’s not a secret that nuclear power plants are powerful – but if you compare the bi-products and danger considerations versus those for renewable energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, and wave, is the danger really that worth it?

When the earthquake and tsunami first hit, the stock market was all a buzz about how solar stocks would triumph in this moment of our time.  Now the same people are saying that oil, coal, and gas are making big leaps and bounds because of the earthquake.  How screwed up is it that people spend more time trying to profit from a disaster like the one that just happened and is growing ever stronger and worse, day by day?  Why aren’t we trying to get solar and wind power in there now to help people out?

Think of the amount of energy needed to harvest pretty much every single non-renewable – oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear fuel – each of these methods requires several multiples of the energy actually gained just to make it in the first place.  Renewable energy sources require nearly no extra energy (or carbon footprint).  Why is this so hard for everyone to understand?

We cannot afford to rely on these non-renewables for our light any longer. We just cannot afford to be petroleum slaves anymore.  Our technological development in light is moving in the wrong direction when we base it on what coal, oil, and nuclear power are dictating.

There are so many advancements in solar technology happening right now, as well as with wind, geothermal, tidal, and wave power generation that it is staggering to think we’re not completely utilizing these sustainable sources of power. We are destroying our home with the mining of oil, coal, and natural gas.  Fracking, for example (fracture drilling for you Battlestar Galactica fans), has been proven to cause earthquakes.  Spent nuclear fuel (and live nuclear fuel for that matter) is so dangerous to humans that it must be buried deep underground to keep it away from us.  We have got to knock this stuff off and get involved in having a home that will be around for a long time. At our current rate, we are absolutely screwed.

Over the last few years as politicians have been lobbied by the CFL and LED manufacturers, we as lighting designers have all gotten our underwear in a bunch over being told we can’t use incandescents.  What sucks about that is that yes, it would be awesome to have a replacement for incandescent sources so that our light sources don’t draw a lot of power.  Well, my frank opinion is that if we were able to generate new electricity nearly free of cost, who cares what light sources we use?  Should we keep developing?  Of course.  Should we keep looking for an incandescent replacement?  Of course we should.  We should also work on improving our current power grid so that we have better distribution of power – it would stun your mind how many places across the country (and world for that matter) are operating on an industry-birth set of infrastructure that is as old as the industry is itself.  How much sense does that make?

Of course, what do I know – I only spend 8-12 hours a day looking at the advancement of light in our society.  I know we can do better, we just have to do it.  I want the best for us!  Most of all, I want us to start thinking sustainably – we’re not gonna make it if we don’t.  That is, of course, just my educated opinion.  But again, what do I know?

From the WTF File: Xcel Energy Drops Out of Colorado’s Solar Market

In a move that is less than popular, energy company Xcel Energy has pulled its support out of the Colorado solar energy market.  You might remember Xcel Energy from a story I wrote back in 2009 about how Xcel Energy was charging solar customers who were using their solar panels to make electricity but not drawing power from the power grid.  I thought that was kind of a pretty rude move.

This one is yet another unpopular decision by Xcel Energy.  I find it kind of hilarious that their catch phrase is “Responsible by Nature.”

So back in 2004, Colorado voters passed Amendment 37 – the amendment says that by 2015, Colorado’s energy market will have 10% of the total contribution be from renewable energy sources.  At the time in 2004, 95% of the energy coming to the grid was from fossil fuels (coal and gas), and only 2% was from renewable energy sources.  From an article at Inhabitat:

Ammendment 37 was passed by Colorado voters in 2004 and required that public utility companies set aside money for a renewable energy portfolio. A small percentage of that power needed to be installed on consumer roofs where demand was great. Many companies opened shop or grew as the price of solar was cut nearly in half. As prices for solar equipment fell, and Xcel Energy met Ammedments 37′s requirements, they have gradually been able to lower the rebate amount to balance the total cost, while still maintaining a predictable pricing scheme for customers. The rebate money comes from a 2% charge on rate payer bills.

Hmm.  So what exactly does the pulling out of Xcel Energy have to do with Colorado and its future?  Well, tons, actually.  Job losses are expected to be about half of the total renewable energy jobs in Colorado, which is about on par with the entire number of fossil fuel gigs in the state.  Again, from Inhabitat:

While the solar industry was relying on a stepped approach for reducing the rebates, their sudden elimination has put nearly every planned residential and commercial project on hold. Being a capital heavy industry many solar company’s cash flow will be severely restricted, limiting opportunities for distributed generation.

One such project that was finalized the day of the announcement puts solar panels on the Denver Rescue Mission by the nonprofit Atmosphere Conservancy in order to help them reduce energy costs. Executive Director Alex Blackmer said that three solar projects the Atmosphere Conservancy finalized would have to be renegotiated and may not go forward after the announcement. Hundreds of  halted projects  will result in real job losses for a workforce that today totals more than 5,300 people and growing. Early estimates reveal that half of these jobs will be gone — more than the total number of jobs in the coal industry in the state.

Energy companies across the world: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.  One of these days soon, the population of the world is going to get its collective head together and bring you to task for this kind of bullsh*t.  It’s time for one of these corporations to stand up and man up in order to change our future.  Profits are just profits – you all already have more money than you can possibly spend in your lifetimes – how about helping the rest of us by changing the future of the planet Earth?

Where exactly is the disconnect here, Big Oil and Coal companies?  Don’t you realize that if you switched to renewable energy sources to push on the market that you would make unbelievable amounts of money that won’t run out?  Even my neighbor’s five year old daughter realizes this fact.

Perhaps we need to let companies like Xcel Energy know how displeased we are with their decisions.  After all, a corporation by definition has rights and privvies like US citizens do.  If we made poor decisions publicly, people would call us on them, or we go to jail.  If you are affected by this decision or if you want to let Xcel Energy know how it’s doing, you should send the company an email at

What Do You Think About the New “Lighting Facts” Labels?

So, the Federal Trade Commission (or the FTC, as we refer to it – or as Eminem says, “the FTC won’t let me be, let me be me, so let me see…”) has decided to add some “Lighting Facts” labels to lamps now.  Check these babies out – hopefully you say “hey, those are lighting nutrition labels!”

So obviously there are two labels here – one for lamps containing mercury, and one for lamps that do not contain mercury.

What do you think of these labels?  Quite frankly, I think there is some information missing, and I’m probably being overly anal about this – but it’s my blog, and I think it needs more stuff!  First, what happened to the colored “Light Appearance” graph?  Like this:

CRI, CCT, efficacy, maybe even the equation for people to figure out how to determine their own yearly energy usage cost per lamp based on their OWN kilowatt-hour price and usage hours per day.  Now these are things that I think would be important, no?  Granted I am a lighting nerd, but I really think that dumbing something like this down just drives down the intelligence level of our society.  What’s wrong with providing more information?  I mean, how many people actually give a damn about how much Selenium their McNuggets have?

My point exactly.  But we get to know about minute differences like that with food.  Why can’t we know about more detailed aspects of our illumination?  Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad that we have this now, being implemented in mid-2011, because it’s better than nothing.  From the FTC website on the matter:

Under direction from Congress to re-examine the current labels, the FTC is announcing a final rule that will require the new labels on light bulb packages. For the first time, the label on the front of the package will emphasize the bulbs’ brightness as measured in lumens, rather than a measurement of watts. The new front-of-package labels also will include the estimated yearly energy cost for the particular type of bulb.

Yeah.  It is definitely better measured in lumens, don’tcha think?  That’s my two cents.

Thanks to the Lighting Facts website and the FTC’s post on the subject.

Kilowatt-Hour Prices Up Almost 5% From Last Year

Just out of curiosity, have you been looking at your kilowatt-hour prices from the electric company you pay for electricity?  If you have, has it gone up, gone down, or stayed relatively stable?  Consumers across the country on average have experienced a 5% increase in kilowatt-hour costs from last year.  Craig DiLouie posted a quick post on LightNOW about this a few weeks ago, and it really got me looking at the numbers.

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t feel I have the right to complain about something unless I have all pertinent data showing me just exactly what the facts are.  Most times, all a person needs to do is to search out the information, and *poof* it appears.  In most cases of information, there is somewhere on the planet that a person can find or access numbers, statistics, and other pertinent data.  In the case of electricity costs and energy figures, you need to check out the Energy Information Administration website.

The Energy Information Administration website provides just about every bit of information that you could need to get statistics or charts for this data – in most cases, they even provide downloadable spreadsheets for you to have and work on.  After Craig’s post about kilowatt hour prices being higher on average from last year, I had to find some other information because I am a super huge nerd when it comes to facts and numbers.  For example, I’m trying to lose weight right now – my best method?  Tracking data and making alterations based on the numbers.

Some statistics I thought were interesting were which states are paying the most per residential kilowatt hour of electricity.  These figures are as of April 2009 – I’m interested to see them at the end of the summer.  This is a sampling of the highest cost per kilowatt hour states:

  • Connecticut:  20.43 cents/kWh – second highest in the country
  • Massachusetts:  17.74 cents/kWh
  • Maine:  15.23 cents/kWh
  • Rhode Island:  15.31 cents/kWh
  • Vermont:  15.21 cents/kWh
  • New Jersey:  15.89 cents/kWh
  • Texas (where I live):  13.02 cents/kWh
  • New York:  17.45 cents/kWh
  • Maryland:  14.82 cents/kWh
  • California:  14.21 cents/kWh
  • Hawaii:  22.19 cents/kWh – highest in the country
  • Alaska:  16.95 cents/kWh

Consequently, the lowest three states’ kilowatt hour averages are Idaho (7.28 cents/kWh), North Dakota (7.34 cents/kWh), and Washington (7.71 cents/kWh).

The average cost per kilowatt hour in the United States for residential consumption of electricity is, as of April 2009, at 11.59 cents/kWh.  The commercial, industrial, and transportation costs per kilowatt hour are considerably less.

You really should inform yourself and look at your state-by state costs.  One of the reasons that I write this blog is so that I can help spread the growth of knowledge in light and things pertaining to light – as a population, things will get better for us all if we are informed.  I took a look at mine, which is Texas, and it helps if you know a few terms when you look at the chart on a state-by-state basis.  Here’s the chart for Texas, in this case, statistics from 2007:


Let’s deconstruct some of the terms in this chart:

Kilowatt Hour refers to one thousand watt-hours, and Megawatt Hour is one million watt-hours.  A watt-hour, without getting terribly technical and discussing joules and that kind of stuff, is a unit of measuring work and a method for charging consumers – or in this case, a thousand units of work per hour (kilowatt hour).  If you have a space heater in your garage, for example, that uses 1000W, and you use it for eight hours on a weekend, you have presumably used 8000W in 8 hours, or 8 kilowatt hours.  Using the national average of cents per kilowatt hour (11.59 cents per kilowatt hour), let’s calculate the cost of 8 hours of your heater:


I hope this makes sense – it should also give you a good idea as to how much your high-wattage equipment can strain your wallet, and why it’s good to have energy efficient stuff, even if just to save you money.  If you were to run that same heater 8 hours every day, it would run you about $85 bucks every 4 months, and about $339 bucks every year, just to operate.

Back to some terms for the chart above, now that the kilowatt hour ramble is over…

Net Summer Capacity refers to how much electricity is expected to be generated by the power station equipment to maintain the highest demand period in the summer.  There’s also a Net Winter Capacity, and I can imagine you know what that means, right?

The Net Generation number refers to how much power is generated at a power plant, and expludes how much power is consumed for power plant usage.

This refers to waste generated by making power.  Carbon footprint and all that stuff refers to emissions.  Most of these come from burning fossil fuels, which makes the wind, water, and solar technologies very attractive.

Something I find just staggering is the Total Retail Sales figure.  From the 2007 chart above, Texas saw a total retail sales of 343,828,582 megawatt hours of electricity.  That is 343,828,582,000 kilowatt hours, which translates to $34,761,069,640.20 billed to end users for Texas alone, in 2007.  That number was 34 billion, 761 million, 69 thousand, 640 dollars and 20 cents.

I hope some of this long post helped you understand a part of your electric bills for the future and keep up with the news and the trends – when you read news about electric companies pushing back against the use of alternative energies in favor of the continuing use of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels, can you guess why they want to keep having you pay for their services?  Just keep in mind, it’s your money!

I *highly* recommend going and spending 20 minutes looking at the articles and statistics on the Energy Information Administration website.  Seriously.

Beam Me Up, Scotty – Solar Power Collection In Space?


Are you familiar with the concept of solar power collection – in orbit?  It’s something that we’ve been working on for a while, some contracts have been signed, things are being studied, blah blah blah.  Basically – and I mean basically – the premise is that we collect solar power in satellites that are orbiting the earth.  The satellites then convert a large portion of this newly collected energy into a laser, which then shoots down through the atmosphere to some kind of device on Earth that then converts all of that laser beam into clean, useful energy from which everyone can benefit.

What’s the matter?  Is that a little too Battlestar Galactica for you?  Come on, I know you watch Battlestar Galactica.

Well, there are two major hurdles to this technology, and as you can imagine, the race to become the first company to put satellites into space to beam solar energy back to Earth.  The first hurdle is getting several (maybe 300) little satellites to beam their energy to one large satellite, which in turn would beam its energy back to Earth.  The other hurdle, as you might have guessed, is how do we get all of this gear into space? Lest we not forget also – how do we maintain it?  We employ armies of utility workers to keep up with our antiquated power grid at the present – when this system is designed, careful attention needs to be paid to maintenance and how it will be maintained.

solar space

Wait, wait, wait – am I really talking about this like it’s going to happen?  This seems pretty Michael Crichton There’s a power company called PG&E in California (remember when the Enron guys spent all of their retirement?) that has signed a deal with a company called Solaren for 200 megwatts of solar space-based power by 2016.  Someone thinks that this is going to happen – otherwise they wouldn’t be shelling out money to research it.  Right?

PowerSat, a company working on this technology, says that the technology will be usable within a decade – the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and Osaka University are working on the receiver device presently.  The device is made from a combination of metal powders and plates that multiply the energy of the laser being shot at it by a factor of 4.  As the program progresses, one would hope that the factor could be increased.

On one hand, wow.  That’s some inventive thinking!  On the other, this would be some pretty great technology if it gets perfected.  PowerSat posted a video about the technology and their approach:

Thanks to The Daily Galaxy, CleanTechnica, and Yale 360!

The National Electric Grid


NPR has a pretty cool article on our power grid, locations of power plants, and some line addition proposals – it is extremely interesting to see what kinds of sources our nation is suited to support.  For example, in the image above here, if we added a whole bunch of solar plants in New Mexico we would utilize a resource that is just begging to be farmed.

The image below, from the article, shows the amount of solar power facilities we have in the United States.  The solar plants are the red dots.  You might also notice that there are two – look really hard in the southwest.

solar plant

The Linac Coherent Light Source

$500 million dollars later, the DoE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford has created the world’s brightest X-ray source – world, meet the Linac Coherent Light Source:


The LCLS is the first high energy X-ray laser light source – also called a “hard” laser – and it’s going to turn some heads.  The LCLS will, once the finest tunings take place, create the world’s brightest short-pulse X-ray laser for scientific study.  Using the LCLS, scientists will be able to study the arrangement of atoms in a ton of materials, from metals to catalysts, plastics, and bio mateiral.  In short, this thing is pretty amazing.

From the press release at the SLAC:

“This milestone establishes proof-of-concept for this incredible machine, the first of its kind,” said SLAC Director Persis Drell. “The LCLS team overcame unprecedented technical challenges to make this happen, and their work will enable frontier research in a host of fields. For some disciplines, this tool will be as important to the future as the microscope has been to the past.”

Even in these initial stages of operation, the LCLS X-ray beam is brighter than any other human-made source of short-pulse, hard X-rays. Initial tests produced laser light with a wavelength of 1.5 Angstroms, or 0.15 nanometers-the shortest-wavelength, highest-energy X-rays ever created by any laser. To generate that light, the team had to align the electron beam with extreme precision. The beam cannot deviate from a straight line by more than about 5 micrometers per 5 meters-an astounding feat of engineering.

“This is the most difficult lightsource that has ever been turned on,” said LCLS Construction Project Director John Galayda. “It’s on the boundary between the impossible and possible, and within two hours of start-up these guys had it right on.”

Unlike conventional lasers, which use mirrored cavities to amplify light, the LCLS is a free-electron laser, creating light using free-flying electrons in a vacuum. The LCLS uses the final third of SLAC’s two-mile linear accelerator to drive electrons to high energy and through an array of “undulator” magnets that steer the electrons rapidly back and forth, generating a brilliant beam of coordinated X-rays. In last week’s milestone, LCLS scientists used only 12 of an eventual 33 undulator magnets to generate the facility’s first laser light.

Chock one up for the DoE scientists.  I’m thrilled to see what this thing can do.

Thanks, MedGadget!