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Can World's Largest Laser Zap Earth's Energy Woes?

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the what-could-go-wrong dept.

Power 372

newviewmedia.com writes "Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory plan on using a laser the size of three football fields to set off a nuclear reaction so intense that it will make a star bloom on the surface of the Earth. If they're successful, the scientists hope to solve the global energy crisis by harnessing the energy generated by the mini-star."

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And nothing could possibly go wrong... (5, Interesting)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028232)

Okay, no, nothing will likely go wrong (at least, nothing dangerous to anyone more than a few hundred yards from the event in the worst case scenario). But damn if this doesn't sound like the opening to the plot of a disaster movie.

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (5, Funny)

germ!nation (764234) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028242)

<spoiler>
    everyone dies apart from Bruce Willis
</spoiler>

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (2, Funny)

stonedcat (80201) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028338)

Better yet, almost everyone lives apart from Bruce Willis!

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028440)

And I thought this article was a reference to Spiderman 2. :p

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028616)

>>>everyone dies apart from Bruce Willis [and his 40-year-old daughter Liv Tyler and her husband]

There.

Fixed.

As for the topic at hand, like fusion reactors the main problem will be getting MORE energy than you consume. There's no point in doing something like this if you spend 2 megawatts running the laser and only get 1.9 megawatts back from your star.

Perhaps a smarter move would be to figure out how to harness the star we already have (plus that second star the aliens created in Jupiter's orbit).

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (2, Funny)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028260)

Don't worry, it's safe to approach during nighttime.

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (1)

online-shopper (159186) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028302)

Spiderman 2 started with Doc Ock creating a star.

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028332)

That bothered me. Because I suspect the writers were really trying to draw a correlation between nuclear fusion and the "fusion" of the Doc's device to his spine. Clearly the fact that we use the same word for both indicates that one can cause the other... Sigh.

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (1)

zygotic mitosis (833691) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028428)

How about when the huge ball of intensely hot plasma falls into the water at the end without producing even a hint of steam? Great science in that movie

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028700)

I didn't say the fusion issue was the *only* thing that bothered me. :-)

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028748)

How about the fact that the SELF SUSTAINING FUSION REACTION goes out in the water like a fucking candle? Noooo, nothing will put out a fusion reaction, except, you know, the same thing that puts out a regular fire.

Hey, fuckfaces (aimed at the writers and producers), Spiderman is a story about a geek overcoming physical limitations to enact justice using his well above average intellect and insight. That's right, it's a movie for geeks. You know, the kind of people who would SCOFF at the mutilation of science.

Next time, remember that you can't spell science fiction without science. Pfft, if your movies indicate that you probably can't spell anything.

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (3, Informative)

lxs (131946) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028806)

That's called the Leidenfrost effect [youtube.com] .

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (3, Funny)

TrentTheThief (118302) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028308)

"Don't worry folks. The fire at Lawrence Livermore will burn itself out at the Mississippi."

Any chance we could use the laser ON Mississippi? (2, Funny)

Benfea (1365845) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028712)

Just curious.

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028324)

Well, if the star turns out to be a problem, you can get rid of it with a black hole from the LHC...

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028682)

I'd feel better if we just gave Leonard Nimoy a glove and point him to the glass door.

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (4, Funny)

Walterk (124748) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028340)

At the very least this is one laser you don't want to look into with your remaining eye.

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028524)

At the very least this is one laser you don't want to look into with your remaining eye.

"Don't look into laser through pathway of gaping holes in heads of the guys in first several rows, with either of your eyes ... or your anything."

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028384)

Doctor Octopus anyone?

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028398)

My question is "Can we find a shark big enough?"

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (1)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028468)

Supernova?

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (1)

V!NCENT (1105021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028596)

Riiiight... A supernova occurs when a star reaches crticle mass (it burns up untill it reaches the last remaining mass), and then all the remaining chemicals burn all at once causing the explosion and uber death and... right....

Where was I? Oh yeah; when the mass in the experiment burns up there will be no remaining mass and even if it does it soooooooooooooooooo tiny and has sooooooooooo much low amount of mass that it will not even have the impact of a grenade.

Conclusion: Care!

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028634)

You need several solar masses to make a supernova. You absolutely can't do it with a terrestial reactor.

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (2, Funny)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028592)

But damn if this doesn't sound like the opening to the plot of a disaster movie.

It is. It's the plot of Spiderman 2.

Oh, wait, I thought you said disastrous movie.

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028626)

LOL! I couldn't help of thinking about Dr. Evil talking about building a "laser"...I mean, wouldn't this "laser" be a great way to blackmail the governments of the world? Muhahahahahaaaaaaaaa....

Re:And nothing could possibly go wrong... (1)

da cog (531643) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028758)

It is worth mentioning that the mini-star only has enough fuel to burn for a fraction of a second. To make an actual fusion reactor from this technology, one would need to create several of them every second. Also, even making *one* of these things ignite is really, really hard, so if your technology breaks down then your reactor stops creating new mini-stars and simply shuts down.

first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028238)

--

Re:first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028278)

<family_guy>oh ho! it's funny because you are not! oh ho ho ho!</family_guy>

Re:first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028394)

family guy is for morons and fags.

Re:first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028458)

family guy is for morons and fags.

The creators/writers of Family Guy are millionaires that make millions of people laugh nightly...while you sir are trolling on a website for a small, pretty specialized, nerdy population...I'm just sayin.

Re:first post (0, Offtopic)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028762)

Picture a wine review: Small, pretty specialized, and nerdy. But you will enjoy its bouquet and presumption.

Re:first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028784)

Just saying what? Nothing, honestly.

bad journalism (5, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028244)

The National Ignition Facility is not doing research into energy production. The research they're doing will not have applications in energy production. The hope is that by understanding ignition other nuclear fusion projects will be able to make better progress.. it is completely pure research, as you would expect from a national laboratory.

Re:bad journalism (5, Funny)

dintech (998802) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028256)

And from the article

you'll have to suspend all previous notions about what a laser looks like. This one is basically a giant factory full of tubes.

Ted Stevens, is that you?

Re:bad journalism (1)

metamechanical (545566) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028622)

So what you're saying is that I jumped the gun fitting the harness over my shark's head...?

Or its a weapon? (2, Funny)

elucido (870205) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028350)

I wouldn't be surprised if its a death star type laser.

Re:bad journalism (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028364)

Well, I'm sure the researchers are pumping it up a bit to grab funding. They did a good job of it too because it sounds awesome .

Part of the reason for saying that they are "bringing star power to earth" is likely that ever since the cold fusion hype and subsequent failure researchers avoid doing research on fusion and try to use other terms to describe what they're doing. There have been attempts like this for a while so it's nothing too new, but it is probably the most well-informed, well-funded and well-advertised experiment of its kind that has been built. It also has, by far, the biggest laser.

I think that the lab itself is probably as much to blame as the journalist, have a look at the poster that they stuck on the building photographed in the article.

Re:bad journalism (3, Informative)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028466)

From https://lasers.llnl.gov/about/nif/ [llnl.gov]

The resulting fusion reaction will release many times more energy than the laser energy required to initiate the reaction.
Experiments conducted on NIF will make significant contributions to national and global security, could lead to practical fusion energy, and will help the nation maintain its leadership in basic science and technology.

The goal of this kind of experience is geared toward energy production. Granted, this is not a prototype power plant, but one could consider the lasers used there as a prototype for elements of a power plant.

The summary also is funny in how it understates achievements of fusion research. I remember a physicist saying "The Sun ? Pfah ! Too cold and too inefficient ! If we were to reproduce the conditionss in the sun, we would never get anything that would interest industries !"

Re:bad journalism (5, Informative)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028498)

I remember a physicist saying "The Sun ? Pfah ! Too cold and too inefficient ! If we were to reproduce the conditionss in the sun, we would never get anything that would interest industries !"

Indeed. From Wikipedia:

The energy production per unit time (power) produced by fusion in the core varies with distance from the solar center. At the center of the sun, fusion power is estimated by model to be about 276.5 watts/m3, a power production density which more nearly approximates reptile metabolism than a thermonuclear bomb. Peak power production in the Sun has been compared to the volumetric heats generated in an active compost heap. The tremendous power output of the Sun is not due to its high power per volume, but instead due to its large size.

Re:bad journalism (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028588)

Wow ! I did not remember it was that low...
That would mean that a volume the size of a swimming pool is required to fuel a regular home.

Peak power production in the Sun has been compared to the volumetric heats generated in an active compost heap.

Bwahaha, I love science

Re:bad journalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028504)

Most of their research is aimed at understanding fusion bombs.

Re:bad journalism (1)

stdarg (456557) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028512)

I recall reading that the NIF is the first stage of a prototype for an actual method of producing steady thermal power from fusion, i.e. a viable electricity source. After proving that the ignition occurs, the next steps are to find a way to mass produce the little fuel pellets, and then to find a way to be able to load and position the pellets fast enough and accurately enough to provide a sustained heat source (since each one lasts about a nanosecond).

Re:bad journalism (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028560)

"The National Ignition Facility is not doing research into energy production." - True

"The research they're doing will not have applications in energy production." - If there's one thing that is constant in the history of science it's that nobody can second guess what fruits fundemental research will bear.

Re:bad journalism (5, Interesting)

pz (113803) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028570)

The National Ignition Facility is not doing research into energy production. The research they're doing will not have applications in energy production. The hope is that by understanding ignition other nuclear fusion projects will be able to make better progress.. it is completely pure research, as you would expect from a national laboratory.

My understanding from friends who work at LLNL is that it's an open secret that at the NIF they are not working on energy production, but, rather, thermonuclear ignition for weapons research. It's still pure research, in that they're working to produce controlled thermonuclear fusion rather than designing bombs outright, but the purpose of understanding fusion per se is so that we can better understand the current state of our present arsenal as it gets older. At least that's what they tell me.

So, we have a tiered layer of secrecy about NIF:

1. for the public: we're doing energy research for a petroleum-free tomorrow
2. for people who probe: we're doing fusion research to model our ageing weapons stockpile
3. [ guess the real reason here ]

I'm betting the third line is only marginally related to the first two, given the history of activity at LLNL.

How long until..... (1, Funny)

cb95amc (99589) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028264)

...these laser are small enough to be mounted on a shark.....

Re:How long until..... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028354)

They're genetically engineering the sharks as we speak. However they'll be pretty much limited to operating in the Marianas trench, otherwise they run aground.

Just use it on the San Jose Sharks now to stop the (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028520)

Just use it on the San Jose Sharks now to stop them from wining!

The cap's are done.

GO blackhawks!

Spidey Sense (1)

ijakings (982830) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028268)

My Spidey sense is tingling.

Re:Spidey Sense (1)

ijakings (982830) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028284)

Also DR OCTOGANOPUS

Focus Fusion (3, Interesting)

Extremus (1043274) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028276)

On the subject of fusion power, the researchers at Focus Fusion [focusfusion.org] seem to be doing a great job as well.

Re:Focus Fusion (2, Interesting)

mcoon (648300) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028414)

Not only that, but their current results generate 50% of the input energy without any of the neutron rich dirty output typical of deuterium based fusion.

Re:Focus Fusion (2, Insightful)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028600)

Not only that, but their current results generate 50% of the input energy without any of the neutron rich dirty output typical of deuterium based fusion.

So they make more energy by not turning it on. Great.

Re:Focus Fusion (0)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028434)

Ha ha, a company that peddles cold fusion. Good luck to them and their investors!

Re:Focus Fusion (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028510)

65keV is hardly cold - 715 million degrees, or 45 times hotter than the Sun.

You really should read the pages. Or just watch the video of Eric Lerner giving a Google tech talk [google.com] about their research.

And I'll join you in wishing them good luck. ;-)

If they succeed, or anyone else trying to crack the energy problem, it could be the salvation of our race if we handle it right.

Re:Focus Fusion (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028444)

Indeed, reaching temperatures of 65keV now, at currents half those of previous experiments ; apparently they can ignite a pB11 mix if they can get it to 100keV.

I have more confidence in their project than NIF, which is just a giant weapon simulator. Their design has some engineering elegance. Should they demonstrate over-unity, I will throw one hell of a party, and happily put up with having to explain why to all the invitees.

Re:Focus Fusion (2, Insightful)

Extremus (1043274) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028552)

Offtopic!? I mention a related fusion power project and get modded "offtopic". Someone mention a related way of making things going kaboon and get modded "interesting". Ohh, insane world.

Fusion power dream (2, Interesting)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028628)

The March 2010 edition of Scientific American has an article [scientificamerican.com] that raises some significant doubt that we will ever be able to use fusion as a commercial source of power. The problems aren't about ignition, they are more fundamental engineering problems...

The Only One? (-1, Troll)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028280)

Am I the only one to think we're being trolled?

Funding... Anyone? (5, Insightful)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028296)

Quote: We have a very high confidence that we will be able to ignite the target within the next two years...

So basically it'll never happen. Haven't they been saying this for the last 20 years?

Re:Funding... Anyone? (3, Funny)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028312)

Nah. Fusion power is supposed to be perpetually 10 or 20 years away. They made a big mistake with that deadline; with a mere two year timeline, people will actually remember what was promised when the deadline passes.

Re:Funding... Anyone? (2, Informative)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028316)

And for the record, it's been a hell of a lot longer than 20 years that fusion power has been 10 or 20 years away. I think the first promises of that sort appeared around 1950.

Re:Funding... Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028388)

they're smarter then you think

FTA "It will take at least another 20 years, with adequate funding, to develop a continuous fusion reaction that could heat water, create steam and turn generators at a commercial fusion power plant, she said."

Re:Funding... Anyone? (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028500)

Well, they just had that damning report into their management, so they probably feel like they're under pressure to produce results. Thus the "confidence" that they'll be able to show something Real Soon Now.

Oh, no, not this year. We'll need at least another year of funding before they can show, well, anything.

Also, read on:

It will take at least another 20 years, with adequate funding, to develop a continuous fusion reaction

Aaaaah, there we go. The world is as it should be.

Re:Funding... Anyone? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028368)

In the 1970's, researchers working on magnetic confinement fusion (the other way of achieving fusion - without the lasers) set out a timetable and the required funding to achieve fusion within 30 years. At the time they asked for approx. $10bn. The fusion community still hasn't received that much funding and so hasn't achieved their goal yet. So the quote "fusion is always xx years away" is actually something of a misnomer. It should read "Fusion is xx years and $xx away."

Re:Funding... Anyone? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028486)

It will be easy to get funding now.
All they have to do is "demand the sum... OF 1 MILLION DOLLARS" or they set it off.

Not to be hosted inside cities (1, Interesting)

ShadyG (197269) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028330)

Maybe it's just my Los Angeles upbringing, but I don't see any way even a future (more efficient) fusion plant is going to generate enough energy to compensate for using up three football fields worth of urban real estate, and that's just for the ignition laser. I can only assume the plan is to build these out in the desert and transmit the electricity in...then of course tear it down and rebuild further out when urban sprawl makes more demands of the now-not-so-remote land.

Re:Not to be hosted inside cities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028370)

really? 3 football fields aint that big compared to a city and a fusion reaction will easily cover the energy needs of the surrounding area.

Re:Not to be hosted inside cities (3, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028416)

Luckily enough, we've got plenty of infrastructure dedicated to transmitting power from generators to our cities already. It's not like you can fit a coal fired plant in your back yard, either...

Re:Not to be hosted inside cities (2, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028446)

how is powering an entire city not worth 3 football fields of real estate?
I would not be surprised if that is not already in the ballpark of what is being used.

Re:Not to be hosted inside cities (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028452)

Conveniently, situations that involve absolutely titanic amounts of power being generated in one place, and needing to be shipped somewhere else, are exactly the sort of thing where using superconductive lines becomes economically practical...

Re:Not to be hosted inside cities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028572)

Yeah, why can't those jerks make their prototype smaller? It should at least be smaller than a modern power plant. And space is clearly the primary concern here. Real estate is so much more important than solving the world's energy consumption problems.

Pewpew (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028334)

What?! No-one has said: "Pewpew, lasers!" yet. How disappointing of you all ;-).

in 20 years ... again? (0, Redundant)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028366)

"It will take at least another 20 years, with adequate funding, to develop a continuous fusion reaction that could heat water, create steam and turn generators at a commercial fusion power plant, she said."

I think we head this one 40 years ago. Guess good ol' fusion will be 20 years in future infinitelly.

Re:in 20 years ... again? (2, Insightful)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028632)

"It will take at least another 20 years, with adequate funding, to develop a continuous fusion reaction that
could heat water, create steam and turn generators at a commercial fusion power plant, she said."

See the problem now?

Commercialisation (3, Insightful)

benjfowler (239527) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028372)

The big problems concern engineering -- how to turn a piece of very expensive scientific equipment into a cost-effective and reliable power station. The challenges are huge, and not just for inertially-confined fusion, but magnetically confined fusion as well.

I'm 30 and I'm not even sure I'll be alive to see a working fusion power plant.

Wanted... (4, Funny)

Heed00 (1473203) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028380)

One frickin' huge shark.

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028382)

... did they super-clone the sharks to go with the fikin laser?

White cat (3, Funny)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028400)

We should be safe unless the director of the facility has a white cat, is surrounded by beautiful girls, has a tank of sharks for visitors, ....

Brief though it may be ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028420)

Won't we be for at least a short time a binary system?

Dec 21, 2012 Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028450)

FTA: And, in those recent years, the project has fallen a year off schedule, the GAO says, with the expected completion date for the research now at the end of 2012

The Mayans might be right after all!

The BBC did this much better, back in January (2, Informative)

Tomsk70 (984457) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028460)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8485669.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Slashdot has gone down in my estimations, if the best source they can find is CNN :-(

Re:The BBC did this much better, back in January (4, Funny)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028612)

Hey, don't complain - usually we just link to a blog, which links to another blog linking a twitter feed with a tinurl-obfuscated link to another blog finally linking to a tabloid article. When you worked yourself through that link chain, you have all the information you need to google for the original source, which, of course, is behind a paywall.

Someone needs to pass on this message... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028464)

to these scientist... from the G-man...

"Prepare for unforeseen consequences..."

prepare (1)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028480)

better wear 2000 sunblock.

End of the World (1)

fuhrysteve (1310621) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028482)

Right.. and I'm sure creating a star will be just as harmless as the LHC proved to be...

When will we quit generating steam for power? (2, Insightful)

Bruha (412869) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028490)

The most technical power plants in the world still use steam powered turbines. When and who is going to get us a way to convert directly to power?

Re:When will we quit generating steam for power? (4, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028542)

Despite it's earlier mention in the thread, I have to take the opportunity to point out that Focus Fusion [focusfusion.org] involves a reactor design that extracts power from the reaction via 2 routes ;

  • Direct induction of current by a stream of helium ions
  • Gamma-voltaic collector

Both of which are very much more direct than steam generation. I believe the reaction has plenty of waste heat which could be used industrially as well.

So this will make so we don't need ZPM's any more? (0)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028496)

So this will make so we don't need ZPM's any more?

But where can we find a big shark to put this laser on?

Flash Forward's a coming ... (1)

RobWalker (623706) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028610)

I love this quote:

The star being cooked up in Livermore this summer is expected to die 200 trillionths of a second after it's ignited, Van Wonterghem said.

And if it doesn't?

And don't stars when the collapse create black holes?

Units of Measure (2, Informative)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028614)

...a laser the size of three football fields...

That tells us nothing without a measurement of density. How many Libraries of Congress worth of energy can those three football fields produce?

Er...um... (1)

gaelfx (1111115) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028684)

I feel like I may have missed the memo about who can destroy the Earth in the most spectacular way. Someone wanna forward that one to me again?

I wonder (4, Funny)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028688)

If the laser is the size of 3 football fields how big does the shark have to be?

Can We Harness Nuclear Fusion in the '70s? (2, Informative)

ewg (158266) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028694)

Obligatory link to Edward Teller's article "Can We Harness Nuclear Fusion in the '70s?" in Popular Science magazine, May 1972 edition.

http://www.popsci.com/archive-viewer?id=VvyLShXydNgC&pg=88 [popsci.com]

hi (-1, Troll)

silviasaint29 (1800600) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028706)

At the very least this is one laser you don't want to look into with your remaining eye. Bol Apartments [bolcroatia.com]

Article is horribly misleading (3, Informative)

da cog (531643) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028708)

By "mini-star" they just mean a brief fusion reaction that is expected to last for a fraction of a second --- if for no other reason then there is only a limited amount of fuel available to it.

Also, the way in which many of those involved ultimately intend to use this is not to create a reactor drawing power purely from fusion but rather to create fusion/fission hybrid reactor in which neutrons from the fusion reaction drive fission reactions in nuclear fuel that would not become critical by itself --- i.e., so we can burn things like nuclear waste and thorium. Such a reactor would be intrinsically fail-safe because when fuel pellets stop being dropped into the reactor and ignited by lasers into "mini-stars" (which, again, is something that needs to be done continuously --- several times a second --- since the "mini-stars" burn up all their hydrogen fuel so quickly) then eventually the whole thing shuts down on its own.

In other words, this is completely unlike the ridiculous and highly implausible fusion reactor featured in Spider-Man 2 which had the magic power to sustain itself by eating everything around it --- which, incidentally, is a power that even our own *actual* sun doesn’t come close to having, since it can only burn its limited supply of hydrogen fuel.

Paging Dr. Octopus ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028724)

This very thing didn't work out well in Spiderman II ... let’s hope there is a mutated spider bite victim nearby to where they are testing this thing or we are screwed.

How about a much cheaper solution: (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028740)

Solar thermal power plants. Cheap as hell, nearly exclusively out of abundant and renewable materials, can be placed in any desert, and 300 km^2 of them would provide all the energy all of humanity would need. Any 3rd world country could do with them.

Of course they won’t work in the night, and be weaker where there is less sun. But we have enough energy storage solutions. The best of those are hydroelectric dams in colder regions, where you use the excess energy to pump water upwards, and can release it with very little loss later. And generating hydrogen and oxygen, that can later be used by fuel cells in mobile vehicles. Normal batteries of course work too, but they are not as clean.

The wiring should be high-voltage DC to minimize losses.

And finally, if all that doesn’t suffice, you can still shoot lasers that pass the atmosphere with little loss into space, onto satellite mirrors, and back to earth again. (Use multiple mirrors, so you always pass the atmosphere using the shortest path.)

Also it would look fuckin’ cool and futuristic, to have such a circle of mirrors, with a “tower of light” in the middle, shooting a huge laser out of its top. :)

And there was.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32028760)

And there was much rejoicing....among evil scientists world wide.

What blather (0)

bradley13 (1118935) | more than 4 years ago | (#32028774)

What sensationalist blather. Fusion has been "just around the corner" for 50 years now. Anyway, even if it really is true this time, some environmentalist group would put a stop to it - funny how they think electricity just magically comes out of the plug without having to actually be generated anywhere.

Nothing to see here, move along...

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