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back to article Giant super-laser passes 500 TRILLION watts

The National Ignition Facility has followed up on its March firing with yet-another record, flicking the switch on a pulse that topped 500 trillion watts and 1.85 megajoules of UV laser. Back in March, the NIF at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory had previously fired a 411 trillion watt pulse. As noted by the lab, 500 …

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Mushroom

Hmmm 2mm target?

If it's that accurate, it'll definitely be able to hit Alderaan.

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Childcatcher

Re: Hmmm 2mm target?

You wouldn't want to test with your finger to see if it was hot. Mind, you would probably not feel a thing.

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Its 100 times more powerful than any other regularly operating LASER out there today? That means there is a 5 trillion watt LASER somewhere?

(and shouldn't LASER be capitalised since it is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation? or has modern society turned 'laser' into a word?)

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Modern society turned laser into a word.

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LLNL's Titan laser did PetaWatt back in the 90s but it's pulses are much shorted and so carry much less energy. Power is energy/time so if you make time small enough you can make the power very very high

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Unhappy

yup it's a frig'n word

Every damn time it comes up on the scrabble board I challenge on principle, knowing I'll lose;(

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Meh

Re: yup it's a frig'n word

Not a word. A collection of letters and is NOT acceptable in Scrabble. I'd have to fight you on this one; just like if you tried to use SCUBA.

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Re: yup it's a frig'n word

I agree, but we would both lose, assuming the latest official Scrabble dictionary is used. They bend their own rules worst than summer cottage Monopoly players.

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Re: yup it's a frig'n word

An acronym is, by definition, a word

"A word formed from the initial letters of other words"

As far as I'm aware, acronyms do not have to be capitalises unless the initial letters of what they refer to are capitalised (such as is the case with NASA for instance). Clearly acronyms referring to organisations are usually capitalised, but those like sonar, radar and laser rarely are.

Of course acronyms have to be widely used enough to be accepted into recognised dictionaries before they can meet the rules of a game like Scrabble. So that means words like radar are acceptable. The sloppy tendency of many people to use the term acronym to refer to mere abbreviations doesn't help, but that doesn't change the accepted definition.

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So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

if LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation I'm just wondering what does the American spelling stand for as they tend to spell it Lazer rather than LASER, or is it just to fit in with American language as opposed to British (like agonize, apologize, authorize, baptize, centralize, characterize, civilize, colonize, computerize, criticize, crystalize, dramatize, organize, etc).

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Joke

Re: So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

You missed 'basterdize'

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Meh

Re: So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

Uh, as an American, I can say that we do not spell 'laser' with a 'z'. Never have, although you might find this type of spelling in some sort of brand name, something like 'lazertag' or something.

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Linux

Re: So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

I suspect that some folks are getting muddled up with TAZER

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Re: So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

'-ize' are perfectly acceptable in English, a fact not always recognized by the dictionaries that accompany software. A quick scan of e.g. Jane Austen will confirm that the original English spelling was usually 'z' and the Americans simply kept it - it was the Brits that morphed to 's'.

I'm a bit puzzled that you think that Americans 'tend to spell' laser with a Z - do you have evidence for this?

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Headmaster

Re: So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

It's evidence that LASER has passed or is passing out of the realm of acronyms and into the realm of neologisms (as laser or US lazer). It is virtually certain to become recognised as an ordinary word in the near future if it isn't already, because it's made it into everyday life and speech (unlike, say, SCUBA, which is still used only in connection with one specialism). Compare RADAR / radar, coloquial usage "on your radar".

The Amercans may be regularizing its spelling in line with other American spellings, regardles of the word's origins. They have a somewhat more phonetic and less etymological approach to spelling than in GB English. In passing I know that the OED has turned traitor to time-honoured GB English usage, but in my book there's only one word that should end in -ize, and that's Americanize.

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Re: So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

And size of course.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: yup it's a frig'n word

No it's not a word

You've misinterprested the definition.

"Who" is a word, and also an acronym, it's an acronym BECAUSE it's a word.

Arguably LASER is some sort of backronym as it's now a commonly accepted word, but previously meant nothing as a word, which therefore makes it just an abbreviation.

An accronym that dosn't spell something understandable is just an abbreviation.

Just because an abbreviation spells somethign pronouncable does not make it an acronym.

FACT!

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JDX
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Re: yup it's a frig'n word

If an acronym becomes widely recognised as a word, it is likely to officially become a word.

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Headmaster

Laser

Surely a Laser is a very small boat.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

Well, the Z is clearly for Ztimulated. ;)

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Paris Hilton

Re: So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

Ztimulated, obviously.

Actually, I've never seen "lazer" used outside of the lolzpeakesque phrase "sharks with friggin lazers".

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Stop

Does LASER have to be capitalised?

Nope. The word "laser" is now in dictionaries, and does not have to be capitalised. Take for example the Cambridge dictionary:

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/laser?q=laser

Oxford:

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/laser?q=laser

Merriam-Webster:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/laser

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Coat

Re: So what does American spelling of LASER stand for then

Or his 'Merkin friendz could just be aware of how eazily he iz irritated by our spellingz, zo they just keep telling him it'z spelled with a 'z' instead of the 's' we all actually uze.

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Anonymous Coward

Yaaaay, go Sharks

Go sharks, go

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Boffin

As noted by the lab, 500 Terawatts is more than 1,000 times as much power as is consumed in the United States at any instant

Except at the moment they fired it, right? It's placed inside US borders.

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Boffin

Well, not really, it's a bit of a FUD to be honest. Power/Energy are related by time, in this instance the laser only fired for 0.00037 of a second. If they'd dissipated the same energy in less time, it would be a more "powerful" laser despite having no impact on the US power consumption.

The power consumed "in an instant" (t=0) has no meaning.

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"Except at the moment they fired it, right?"

At the moment they fired it it wasn't consuming any significant energy from the grid - that would have been built up over time into ( I presume) banks of capacitors

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Calculus...

Well POWER consumed in any period of time has no meaning. Energy consumed over a period of time does, it IS the power. Power at an instant is defined as the derivative of Energy with respect to time which means it possible to state the instanteous power consumption in the same way it is possible to state the instantaneous speed of a car, even though over zero time the car moves zero distance. So certainly the original poster is correct, the power being dissipated during the shot IS the sum of the laser and the normal consumption of the US, however it's not actually being drained from the grid, since it got stored up earlier over a longer period of time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Except at the moment they fired it, right?"

Perhaps they shouldn't have shorted across the building mains. But more importantly, they did get a charge.

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Boffin

Units?

How many houses full of popcorn is this?

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There's something very important I forgot to tell you

Don't cross the streams.

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Re: There's something very important I forgot to tell you

Mmmm, something tells me you'll get more than a mild suntan from this thing.

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Linux

Re: There's something very important I forgot to tell you

"Don't cross the streams." -- The idea is actually TO cross the streams, all be it in a very precise manner.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There's something very important I forgot to tell you

* ALBEIT

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There's something very important I forgot to tell you

It seems some people are very touchy about being advised of correct spelling and/or grammar...

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Boffin

Badass

And a step closer to Fusion too? Fire a Higgs Boson up its pipe & see what happens I say.

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FAIL

Re: Badass

NIF hasn't even achieved ignition let alone net energy gain.

The fundamental problem with NIF as an energy source is the fact that it uses LASERs, which are typically about 14% energy efficient.

As it would also use Steam generation as with a Tokamak, the net energy gain needs to be on the order of 15-20x to break even. Tokamak is about 3-5x.

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Mushroom

Re: Badass

On the other hand laser-driven implosion yields a MUCH greater plasma density, so the much higher net energy gain might also be a lot easier to achieve. Definitely worth researching.

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Pint

great for laser pointer...

If you wanted to point out interesting sites on someting in the Oort cloud. God forbid if you accidently hit the moon, as it would probably burn half way through before the duty cycle turns off.

Why can't I get toys like that? As for the electric bill, honestly, I'm good for it... I can make $150.00 installments for the next what, 5 or 6 thousand years?

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Practice reading and arithmetic

The article gives to beam energy: 1.85e6 Joules. Use the magic formula Power = Energy / Time to get the amount of time this laser can fire continuously (<4nano seconds). While you are at it, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TNT_equivalent and find that 1.85e6 Joules is less then .5kg of TNT, or less than £0.10 of electricity. While you are at it, take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Ignition_Facility and you will find "In the same month [January 2012], the NIF fired a record high of 57 shots, more than in any month up to that point." 0.5 kg of TNT twice per day is not going to put a big dent in the moon. There is some good news: $150 buys the electricity for about 10 shots (~1% efficiency).

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Re: Practice reading and arithmetic

I see you're one of those numerate types with a technical background who understands how things work :)

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Re: Practice reading and arithmetic

"0.5 kg of TNT twice per day is not going to put a big dent in the moon."

I disagree. I think 0.5 kg of TNT twice per day is going to make a reasonable dent in just about anything after a couple of weeks.

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Question from the stupid person in the forum

I don't know much about physics apart from not pissing uphill... Does it say in the article - cause if it did, i completely missed it - if the energy produced is more than that they used?

Just out of curiosity, not saying it is a useless experiment if they haven't achieved that yet

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Boffin

Re: Question from the stupid person in the forum

It doesn't produce energy, just takes it in. One of the potential applications here is that when you fire enough energy at a small point, like they have done here with multiple lasers converging on a small area, you can ignite a fusion reaction which can then be used to generate lots of clean power, far more than you used to power the laser.

In this scenario the laser is simply the starter motor that kicks off the fusion reactor.

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Coat

Re: Question from the stupid person in the forum

I think you can be sure that if they broke the laws of thermodynamics they would probably had made that their lead story, across the planet.

Or they'd have been framed for murder a la Chain Reaction in a cover-up due to the world not being ready for free energy...

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Re: Question from the stupid person in the forum

They haven't even achieved fusion ignition, let alone energy gain.

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Re: Question from the stupid person in the forum

Its the spark-plug for the internal fusion motor....

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Mushroom

Re: Question from the stupid person in the forum

You mean, they can use this LASER to start a fusion reactor that can power another more powerful LASER that can blow up the moon?

Incredible!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ Oliver Mayes Question from the stupid person in the forum

I wonder who down-voted you? that is pretty much the gist of it...

The Lasers initiate fusion, then that energy is used, the idea being they can reach break even with Intertial Confinement much easier than they expect they can with magnetic confinement, plus the advantage is when you turn it off, its off, whereas a TOMAK would still be full of hot plasma.

Personally I think we need some combination of the two to achieve fusion efficiently without the use of a deep gravity well.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ Oliver Mayes Question from the stupid person in the forum

Not "TOMAK", "hawtt-donut" ;)

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