Mad Scientists Craft Atomic Laser

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Mad Scientists Craft Atomic Laser

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Doomsday device? Ah, now the ball's in Farnsworth's the US Department of Energy's court!

Contrary to what Star Wars would have us believe, lasers aren't able to destroy planets or mow down legions of rebel scum. Until now, that is. Scientists at the US Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have revealed that they've created an atomic X-ray laser that is literally a billion times brighter than any other X-ray. Sadly, it's not going to be used to cause millions of voices to suddenly cry out in terror and suddenly be silenced; this laser will instead be used to study the sun.

The laser is called the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) and is able to fire rapid-fire laser pulses that heat matter up to over 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit. From there, the beam allows scientists to see what's happening inside the superheated object. Early experiments were conducted on aluminum foil (the heating process was used to recreate solid plasma - a form of matter that's only found within star cores and gas giants), and the folks at SLAC seem incredibly pleased with the laser's results.

Here's how the LCLS works, according to SLAC:

Although LCLS and the neon capsule are both lasers, they create light in different ways and emit light with different attributes. The LCLS passes high-energy electrons through alternating magnetic fields to trigger production of X-rays; its X-ray pulses are brighter and much more powerful. The atomic laser's pulses are only one-eighth as long and their color is much more pure, qualities that will enable it to illuminate and distinguish details of ultrafast reactions that had been impossible to see before. Researchers envision using both LCLS and atomic laser pulses in a synchronized one-two punch: The first laser triggers a change in a sample under study, and the second records with atomic-scale precision any changes that occurred within a few quadrillionths of a second.

So, to recap: Scientists have now created an atomic laser beam to learn the secrets of the stars. How amazingly cool is that?

Source: SLAC via io9

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Hmmmm...
Super-heating laser, powerful enough to (quite possibly) blow up planets?
Right, I need a freighter ship, some helicopters, and maybe a small assault team. I'm taking it.
But, in all seriousness, that's pretty cool, although the heat thing's a little scary.

I dunno... for some reason I'm thinking this will turn out like what happened to Doc Oc in Spider-Man 2...

Studying the sun? Who cares about the sun?
Come on, when you create a laser like that, use it for something awesome. Like holding the world hostage and demanding a billion dollars or something like that.

SageRuffin:
I dunno... for some reason I'm thinking this will turn out like what happened to Doc Oc in Spider-Man 2...

I was thinking about Doctor Octopus from the Spider-Man 2 movie too, when I read the article.

Well in Star Wars I believe they use Blasters, which are a particle projection technology which is a bit differant than focused light. :)

Very cool news though and hey... War Mongers and be happy that even the most peaceful technology will oftentimes be corrupted for battle. I'm sure given time someone will eventually weaponize this... if they haven't already!

Generally speaking the military usually gets all the cool stuff first for purposes of national defense, and usually winds up testing it out. One big thing about warfare (if you've ever studied it) is that real wars are usually won by "X weapons" X simply meaning unknown and refer to things nations hold back from each other "just in case" and don't tell anyone else about, or develop in the course of a war. Rarely are wars won by what everyone on all sides knows is going to be on the battlefield to begin with.

The Chinese revealed laser technology capable of blinding US satellites going back as far as 2006 (do a search for Chinese Anti-Satellite Lasers, or China, Satellite, and Lasers you'll find tons of stuff). It's not surprising that the world in general has been putting more effort into laser science and thinking in a spaceward direction as a result. I'd imagine if scientists.. from any country, are using this in this capacity, there is probably a military death ray version somewhere. :)

My first thought when reading those temperatures and the fact that it was an X-ray laser was that it sounds an awful lot like some of the 80s missle interception research that was being done.... the idea of shooting down missles with lasers either fired from ground batteries or from orbital satellites. Given that the USSR collapsed and the US showed it developed interception tech in excess of what cold ware treaties allowed (much to the chargrin of the current Russian authorities who believe the original treaty should have been respected) it wouldn't surprise me if this has it's origins with that.

I'd also suspect that while the scientific interest is genuine, that the US is revealing this largely to show China what we've got. The thing is the US doesn't generally sit around going "hey we can blind your satellites" or "we have a death ray" we're more offhanded about it in peacetime unlike some of our... competition. China was gloating for quite a while.

I wouldn't be too surprised if some nations opposed to the US (officially or not) unveil something cool soon in response.

Why waste time pointing it at the sun when there are plenty of sharks (for now anyway) swiming around with perfectly good heads to strap it to? Why can't Our government be evil in a cool way for once?

But can it generate 1.21 jigawatts of energy?

More seriously: If this thing is even remotely portable, I could see it being used as an atomic-bomb level weapon, esp. on ships/heavy aircraft. The main problem is that it's so pinpoint - it can take out anything (missile defense seems promising), but only one thing at a time.

vansau:

So, to recap: Scientists have now created an atomic laser beam that they're going to shoot at the sun in order to learn the secrets of the stars. How amazingly cool is that?

I don't know, sounds rather... hot to me. [insert CSI: Miami intro]
In all seriousness, I hope they know what they're doing (and one would assume so if they're scientists). Read at a glance, this sounds like they're just going to start shooting lasers at the sun and hope nothing goes wrong. :-P

vansau:

So, to recap: Scientists have now created an atomic laser beam that they're going to shoot at the sun in order to learn the secrets of the stars. How amazingly cool is that?

NO! this is a HUGE laser like a mile long used to recreate how hot it is inside of stars NOT pointing it at them. RESEARCH FIRST!

Beryl77:
Studying the sun? Who cares about the sun?
Come on, when you create a laser like that, use it for something awesome. Like holding the world hostage and demanding a billion dollars or something like that.

SageRuffin:
I dunno... for some reason I'm thinking this will turn out like what happened to Doc Oc in Spider-Man 2...

I was thinking about Doctor Octopus from the Spider-Man 2 movie too, when I read the article.

I think pointing it at the sun could be a good way to hold the world hostage. We kind of need that thing.

Man, I thought this was going to be a real life Proton Pack.

Firing lasers into the sun? Now THAT's science we can all understand.

EDIT: Now that I've read into it a little, they aren't actually pointing it at the sun :(

ant1248:

vansau:

So, to recap: Scientists have now created an atomic laser beam that they're going to shoot at the sun in order to learn the secrets of the stars. How amazingly cool is that?

NO! this is a HUGE laser like a mile long used to recreate how hot it is inside of stars NOT pointing it at them. RESEARCH FIRST!

The comment was meant as a tongue-in-cheek closing line, but you're right for calling me on it: it wasn't obvious enough and sounded factual. I've changed it; apologies.

Seriously though, I love when scientists come up with batshit solutions like this. "How do we study the inside of the sun?" "Lasers."

Call me when they're using it to destroy the stars.

And this, dear children, is why science is awesome. :D

@People not reading.
They will not point the laser into the sun. They will just recreate a mini-sun on earth by heating "stuff" on up to ~5500 C (afaik, surface heat of the sun, if I remember correctly from school). Same as the LHC is creating mini-black holes. :D

Now I just need to steal it, and find a way to mount it on the moon....

Muwahahahahaha!

Hear that Aliens? Don't mess with earth!

We just gone over here at The Escapist, here's Greg Tito playing with it.

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DVS BSTrD:
Why waste time pointing it at the sun when there are plenty of sharks (for now anyway) swiming around with perfectly good heads to strap it to? Why can't Our government be evil in a cool way for once?

Be realistic here. If our government was to do something awesome like that, we'd need an awesome henchperson to protect the laser sharks. And even in this economy, who wants to apply for the "Get Killed by James Bond" job?

I for one welcome our new atom-laser overlords from the US Department of Energy!

omicron1:
But can it generate 1.21 jigawatts of energy?

More seriously: If this thing is even remotely portable, I could see it being used as an atomic-bomb level weapon, esp. on ships/heavy aircraft. The main problem is that it's so pinpoint - it can take out anything (missile defense seems promising), but only one thing at a time.

US Military is already playing around with railguns. They arent lasers, but lasers currently dont have the potenital to skewer a full sized battleship lengthwise in one shot. Plus the particular prototype model of railgun i saw was only a few metres long, this laser thing apparently is considerably longer.

hmm so how long before this thing gets weponized? i give it around 5 years
also this just might be the first laser gun prototype how cool is that?

Therumancer:
Well in Star Wars I believe they use Blasters, which are a particle projection technology which is a bit differant than focused light.

Seriously? You're *that* guy? Thanks for murdering my joke.

Anonymous will hack it and use it to destroy the world.

A guy can dream...

Daniel_Rosamilia:
Hmmmm...
Super-heating laser, powerful enough to (quite possibly) blow up planets?
Right, I need a freighter ship, some helicopters, and maybe a small assault team. I'm taking it.

is this a good place to sign up? lol anyway this is pretty cool, I just hope they do the right thing with this laser...precisely what the right thing might be I'll leave to imagination lol

Finally some progress, tho I wasn't expecting it to be in the Death Star department but still its impressive. Looking forward to Siege Tanks, Augmented Uber Soliders, and alien hotties.

omicron1:
But can it generate 1.21 jigawatts of energy?

More seriously: If this thing is even remotely portable, I could see it being used as an atomic-bomb level weapon, esp. on ships/heavy aircraft. The main problem is that it's so pinpoint - it can take out anything (missile defense seems promising), but only one thing at a time.

Better yet, mount that fucker on a satellite. Who needs a boat mounted death ray that fires from off shore when you can have a death ray installed on the ultimate high ground?

Once we learn the secrets, then we can vaporize ourselves with the first test project. OR, flash roast an Ox in .03 seconds. Whichever is more practical.

Time before military uses it for violent means?

Selvec:
Time before military uses it for violent means?

They tried that, but ended up with a house full of popcorn.

So, how long until we can affix this

to sharks?

Lasers, quantum levitation, antimatter...

Next thing you know, we'll be visited by space hippies with pointy ears. Live long and prosper!

Alpha Maeko:
Lasers, quantum levitation, antimatter...

Next thing you know, we'll be visited by space hippies with pointy ears. Live long and prosper!

All we need to do is to figure out Warp drives, probably breaking a few Laws of physics on the way, and all will hail the Terran Empi- I meant and start a peaceful Federation!

All I can think is how long before someone tries to bolt one to a tank?

Might take a while to miniatursie it enough, but laser tank brigades? Terrifying and awesome and camp all at the same time.

Oh Captain they're coming straight for us! Quick hit him with your laser beams!

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