Sunday, May 31, 2009

Still Worried About the Blackholes?

It's not so long ago that the world was all a flutter about the LHC in CERN and the speculative talk of blackhole creation ending the world. I heard one person on Sky say that it was a 1 in 200,000 chance that the experiment would all go horribly wrong. I wonder if it's all going to start over again?

It was announced on Friday that the National Ignition Facility (US) has created a super laser with the power to burn as hot as a star. This is the first real chance for scientists to carry out lab research on safe fusion power. During a dedication ceremony to the new laser, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said "We have invented the world's largest laser system, we can create the stars right here on earth. And I can see already my friends in Hollywood being very upset that their stuff that they show on the big screen is obsolete. We have the real stuff right here."

I wish I had a video or audio feed of the speech.

The NIF's new high-energy laser system is located inside the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory outside San Francisco, and is made up of house-sized sphere that focuses 192 laser beams on a small point, generating temperatures and pressures that exist at cores of stars. When the lasers hit hydrogen atoms suspended in the chamber, they will trigger a fusion reaction that will produce more energy than was required to prompt "ignition".

According to NIF director Edward Moses, "This is the long-sought goal of 'energy gain' that has been the goal of fusion researchers for more than half a century" adding, "NIF's success will be a scientific breakthrough of historic significance; the first demonstration of fusion ignition in a laboratory setting, duplicating on Earth the processes that power the stars."

Scientists at the NIF also promises groundbreaking discoveries in planetary science and astrophysics, but the biggest achievement will be that the electricity derived from fusion reactions could help humanity's growing appetite for green energy.

"Very shortly we will engage in what many believe to be this nation's greatest challenge thus far, one that confronts not only the nation but all of mankind -- energy independence," said lab director George Miller, "NIF has the potential to revolutionize our energy system, teaching us a new way to harness the energy of the sun to power our cars and homes."

In my opinion, this is fantastic news. We're looking at the potential to have all the earth's energy needs satisfied. This could be the end of all fossil fuel requirements.

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