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).
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?
Resources (just for the sake of listing “ultrafast science”):
- Frontiers in Optical Coherent and Ultrafast Science
- Virtual Journal of Ultrafast Science
- “U Texas Petawatt laswer will test fusion, star formation“
- “The Amazing Power of the Petawatt”
- Gizmodo: “One Petawatt Laser Opens for Business in Texas”
- Wired Science: “Texans build world’s most powerful laser”
Bonus: Flag etiquette violation, below the fold.
Update! Dr. Ditmire writes that actually the flags fly correctly, they’re viewed from the other side — but, he notes, the flags are then in the incorrect positions with relation to each other. He said the problem will be fixed by the open house.
Two points to the Petawatt Laser team for knowing their flag etiquette; two more when they get it fixed!