“Big LASERS are cool”

Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin showed off their petawatt LASER last week (alas, couldn’t make the open house myself).

LASER project manager Todd Ditmire summed it up:  “Big LASERs are cool.”

The $15 million laser creates a beam that is brighter than the surface of the sun. The pulses of light can reach 1 quadrillion watts (a petawatt) but last just one-tenth of a trillionth of a second.

Scientists such as Todd Ditmire, a UT physics researcher, will use the laser to heat substances to incredibly high temperatures for incredibly short periods of time, approximating the conditions at the center of a star. It’s also expected to help the U.S. Department of Energy in its ambitious research effort to create a laser-based controlled fusion energy source, which might one day be the ultimate clean energy source for the country.

With such pride showing, it might be a good time to note that this project is the result of pure science research funding with federal assistance.  If we could have a science debate among presidential candidates, the Texas Petawatt LASER should be front and center evidence for the value and fun of expanding federal support for science.  Texas’s U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison participated in the dedication ceremony.  Maybe she noticed.

Congratulations, UT.  Don’t point that thing this way!

Read about it here:

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