Highest powered LASER in the world – in Texas, naturally

August 15, 2008

Longhorns must be proud. This is really cool science.

The University of Texas is hosting an open house for the Petawatt Laser. The Petawatt Laser is the most powerful laser in the world, creating “power output of more than 2,000 times the output of all power plants in the United States. (A petawatt is one quadrillion watts.)” The open house is August 28. (No, I didn’t get an invitation; Meg Gardiner’s husband got one.)

The laser is brighter than sunlight on the surface of the sun, but it only lasts for an instant, a 10th of a trillionth of a second (0.0000000000001 second).

Not me teach - I didnt shine that laser on your whiteboard.  (Seriously - Dr. Todd Whitmire, University of Texas, operator of the Petawatt Laser)

'Not me teach - I didn't shine that laser on your whiteboard.' (Seriously - Dr. Todd Ditmire, University of Texas, operator of the Petawatt Laser)

The laser reached greater than one petawatt of output in a test run March 31, 2008, at the University of Texas’s Texas Center for High Intensity Laser Science. The instrument will be used to create and study in extreme conditions, “including gases at temperatures greater than those in the sun and solids at pressures of many billions of atmospheres.”

This will allow them to explore many astronomical phenomena in miniature. They will create mini-supernovas, tabletop stars and very high-density plasmas that mimic exotic stellar objects known as brown dwarfs.

“We can learn about these large astronomical objects from tiny reactions in the lab because of the similarity of the mathematical equations that describe the events,” said Ditmire, director of the center.

Such a powerful laser will also allow them to study advanced ideas for creating energy by controlled fusion.

The Texas Petawatt was built with funding provided by the National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency within the U. S. Department of Energy.

Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub could use a petawatt laser, to keep the water in the tub warm, don’t you think?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Lying for a Living.

Resources (just for the sake of listing “ultrafast science”):

Bonus: Flag etiquette violation, below the fold.

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VJ Day, the end of World War II – August 15, 1945

August 15, 2008

Today is the 63rd anniversary of “Victory Japan” Day, or VJ Day. On that day Japan announced it would surrender unconditionally.

President Harry Truman warned Japan to surrender, unconditionally, from the Potsdam Conference, in July. Truman warned that the U.S. had a new, horrible weapon. Japan did not accept the invitation to surrender. The announced surrender came nine days after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and six days after a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The actual surrender occurred on September 2, 1945, aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Harbor.

Celebrations broke out around the world, wherever U.S. military people were, and especially across the U.S., which had been hunkered down in fighting mode for the previous four years, since the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.

I posted some of the key images of the day a year ago (go see), and repost one of my favorites here.

An unnamed U.S. sailor boldly celebrates Japans surrender with an unnamed, passing nurse, in Times Square, New York, August 15, 1945 - Alfred Eisenstadt, Life Magazine

Alfred Eisenstaedt's iconic photo of the Kiss in Times Square, V-J Day 1945.

Resources:


Will Rogers and Wiley Post crash in Alaska, 1935

August 15, 2008

Will Rogers, images from Will Rogers Museums, Oklahoma

Will Rogers, images from Will Rogers Museums, Oklahoma

After Mark Twain died, America found another great humorist, raconteur, story-teller, who tickled the nation’s funny-bone and pricked the collective social conscience at the same time. Will Rogers is most famous today for his sentiment that he never met a man he didn’t like. In 1935, he was at the height of his popularity, still performing as a lariat-twirling, Vaudeville comedian who communed with presidents, and kept his common sense. He wrote a daily newspaper column that was carried in 500 newspapers across America.  Rogers was so popular that Texas and Oklahoma have dueled over who gets the bragging rights in claiming him as a native son.

Will Rogers ready to perform.  Photo taken prior to 1900 - Wikimedia

Will Rogers ready to perform. Photo taken prior to 1900 - Wikimedia

Wiley Post was known as one of the best pilots in America. He gained fame by being the first pilot to fly solo around the world. Post was famous for his work developing new ways to fly at high altitudes. Post was born in Texas and moved to Oklahoma. He lost an eye in an oil-field accident in 1924, then used the settlement money to buy his first airplane. He befriended Will Rogers when flying Rogers to an appearance at a Rodeo, and the two kept up their friendship literally to death.

Post asked Rogers to come along on a tour of the great unknown land of Alaska, where Post was trying to map routes for mail planes to Russia. Ever adventurous, Rogers agreed — he could file his newspaper columns from Alaska by radio and telephone. On August 15, 1935, their airplane crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska, killing them both.

Wiley Post, first to fly solo around the world, in an early pressure suit for high-altitude flying - Wikimedia photo

Wiley Post, first to fly solo around the world, in an early pressure suit for high-altitude flying - Wikimedia photo

On August 15, 2008, a ceremony in Claremore, Oklahoma, will honor the two men on the 73rd anniversary of their deaths. About 50 pilots from Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas will fly in to the Claremore Airport for the Will Rogers-Wiley Post Fly-In Weekend. Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Jari Askins will offer a tribute.

Rogers was 56, leaving behind his wife, Betty, and four children. Post, 36, left a widow.

Rogers’ life is really quite legendary. Historian Joseph H. Carter summed it up:

Will Rogers was first an Indian, a cowboy then a national figure. He now is a legend.
Born in 1879 on a large ranch in the Cherokee Nation near what later would become Oologah, Oklahoma, Will Rogers was taught by a freed slave how to use a lasso as a tool to work Texas Longhorn cattle on the family ranch.
As he grew older, Will Rogers’ roping skills developed so special that he was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for throwing three lassos at once: One rope caught the running horse’s neck, the other would hoop around the rider and the third swooped up under the horse to loop all four legs.
Will Rogers’ unsurpassed lariat feats were recorded in the classic movie, “The Ropin’ Fool.”
His hard-earned skills won him jobs trick roping in wild west shows and on the vaudeville stages where, soon, he started telling small jokes.
Quickly, his wise cracks and folksy observations became more prized by audiences than his expert roping. He became recognized as being a very informed and smart philosopher–telling the truth in very simple words so that everyone could understand.
After the 10th grade, Will Rogers dropped out of school to become a cowboy in a cattle drive. He always regretted that he didn’t finish school, but he made sure that he never stopped learning–reading, thinking and talking to smart people. His hard work paid off.
Will Rogers was the star of Broadway and 71 movies of the 1920s and 1930s; a popular broadcaster; besides writing more than 4,000 syndicated newspaper columns and befriending Presidents, Senators and Kings.
During his lifetime, he traveled around the globe three times– meeting people, covering wars, talking about peace and learning everything possible.
He wrote six books. In fact he published more than two million words. He was the first big time radio commentator, was a guest at the White House and his opinions were sought by the leaders of the world.
Inside himself, Will Rogers remained a simple Oklahoma cowboy. “I never met a man I didn’t like,” was his credo of genuine love and respect for humanity and all people everywhere. He gave his own money to disaster victims and raised thousands for the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Post’s legacy is significant, too. His employer, Oklahoma oil man F. C. Hall, encouraged Post to push for aviation records using Hall’s Lockheed Vega, and Post was happy to comply. Before his history-making trip around the world, he had won races and navigation contests. NASA traces the development of the space-walking suits worn by astronauts to Post’s early attempts for flight records:

For Wiley Post to achieve the altitude records he sought, he needed protection. (Pressurized aircraft cabins had not yet been developed.) Post’s solution was a suit that could be pressurized by his airplane engine’s supercharger.

First attempts at building a pressure suit failed since the suit became rigid and immobile when pressurized. Post discovered he couldn’t move inside the inflated suit, much less work airplane controls. A later version succeeded with the suit constructed already in a sitting position. This allowed Post to place his hands on the airplane controls and his feet on the rudder bars. Moving his arms and legs was difficult, but not impossible. To provide visibility, a viewing port was part of the rigid helmet placed over Post’s head. The port was small, but a larger one was unnecessary because Post had only one good eye!

Last photo of Will Rogers (in the hat) and Wiley Post, in Alaska in 1935 (from Century of Flight)

Last photo of Will Rogers (in the hat) and Wiley Post, in Alaska in 1935 (from Century of Flight)

Tip of the old scrub brush to Alaska bush advocate Pamela Bumsted.

Resources:


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