New Laser Burns Hot as the Sun with Potential to Blast a Nation off the Map... or Power it Indefinitely!

National Ignition Facility Photo
Photo via: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

A new laser currently being tested at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has caught the imagination of many scientists and critics. For one, it is one of the largest lasers ever to be developed. It takes up the space of a standard-sized stadium, housing 192 individual beams, each combining into one ultimate beam that is said to have the equivalent intensity and heat energy as the sun itself.With Power Brings Great Responsibility
Such awesome laser potential brings to mind a number of possibilities, some good and some bad. One of its most criticized possibilities is creating an even more devastating nuclear arsenal. In addition, the laser will allow scientists to study the detailed impact of such weapons, plus assess the effects of the aging nuclear arsenal rusting in our backyards.

On a more positive note, the laser is hoped to one day offer a greater understanding of how a star burns. But probably the most significant portion of this news for any Treehugger, is its initial steps towards the creation of fusion ignition. Fusion is of course the theory behind the transformation of mass into energy.

Fusion Ignition
What scientists are hoping to witness over this next year, is that when the laser is shot at a tiny portion of hydrogen, it will fuse into helium. The resulting chemical reaction from the fusion could then theoretically produce the potential to create vast amounts of unlimited electricity. Such a discovery could then one day replace our dependence on fossil fuel and help power the future.

But whoa there Tonto, we're getting a little ahead of ourselves. This research was fundamentally let out of the gate as a means of weapons studies, so the resulting shimmer of media mania could be a slight of hand to keep our eyes off its true intent. But as usual, the rumors are as long as Uncle Sam's nose, so one can never tell.

History Repeats Itself
We have seen the ugliness that came from the beauty of E=MC2, so would a breakthrough be devoted towards a destructive nature before a constructive, and can we afford to make that mistake again? All I can say is something very wonderful should come out of our $3.5 billion, other than a few weapons of mass destruction and even fewer steps towards the creation of clean energy.

Imagine the progress that could have been made with that kind of money focused elsewhere (wind, solar, health, etc.), but that's the way weapons research has always worked. Who are we to judge the powers that be...

More on fusion
News: Fusion Power One Step Closer
How Nuclear Fusion Reactors Work
Nuclear Fusion Redux: How Realistic Are Scientists' Plans to Build Mini-Stars on Earth?
First Nuclear Fusion by 2011? Still No Silver Bullet for Environmental Problems

Tags: Electricity | Energy | Nuclear Power


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