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World's Largest Laser Finally Complete

Watch out, Alderaan; the world's largest laser is finally complete. Created to blast tiny hydrogen atoms into a self-sustaining fusion reaction, the giant laser system -- located in Livermore, California -- is known as the National Ignition Facility (NIF). According to the Daily Mail, the system is comprised of 192 laser beams and is 60 times more powerful than the next most powerful laser.

It'll have to be powerful, considering atomic fusion requires enormous amounts of energy to become self-sustaining. In a fusion reaction, two atoms are fused together to become one atom. We're all familiar with Einstein's famous equation e=mc², which states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, although it (matter) can be converted to energy. This means that fusion reactions release a staggering amount of energy -- enough to power the sun, as well as the world's most powerful nuclear weapons.

Until now, scientists had been able to create small fusion reactions using lasers in a lab, but could only sustain the reactions by adding more and more energy. The holy grail for fusion researchers is "ignition," whereby the reaction is strong enough to power itself and become self-sustaining (hence the name, National Ignition Facility). Although scientists hope that the new laser system (which will begin firing in 2010) will be powerful enough to reach this ignition point, nobody knows for sure whether or not it will, because there has never before been a project of this size and scale. You can read more about it at the project's Web site, here.

Between the National Ignition Facility in California and the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, you can bet that the doomsday crowd will be out in force with protests against all this heavy-duty technology. We're not worried about it, since, according to the last report we've seen, the Death Star project has currently run out of funding and has been excluded from President Obama's stimulus plan. [From: Daily Mail, Via: SF Business Times]

National Ignition Facility

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Tags: fusion, laser, military tech, MilitaryTech, national ignition facility, NationalIgnitionFacility, nif, nuclear, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, NuclearPower, NuclearWeapons, science, top

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