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Friday, July 31, 2015

Japan's Death Star Laser

According to the Asahi Shimbun, Japan has a laser of epic Death Star proportions.

No.. it's not a huge moon-sized, movable killing machine that the Japanese have created to stop annoying Chinese aircraft flybys, but rather it's a laser capable of outputting enough power equal to the world's energy consumption x one thousand… and they plan on using it to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

Kawanka Junji (surname first) of the Institute of Laser Engineering at Osaka University says the laser has achieved a power rating of 2 petawatts at 2 kJ for 1 ps (picosecond).

I have no idea what that egg-head talk means, but just how frickin' cool is it that there are places like Osaka University with their own laser institute?

An cynic would, however, marvel at where Japan's tax dollars (yen) are going, but whatever… this blogger is a science geek.

Okay… let's examine those power claims in a manner you and I might understand… I know, I know… I had you at 'Death Star'… but still… let's see:

1 petawatt = 1 quadrillion watts.

There… did that clear things up? No, huh? Me either… what is a 'quadrillion' - some kind of dance from Alice in Wonderland?
Oops... here we have the Mock Turtle (left) and the Gryphon (far right) demonstrating the Lobster Quadrille dance to Alice. 
Well… it depends on whether we are talking about countries that use the long or short scale system of numbering (Long scale: Every new term greater than million is one million times larger than the previous term; Short scale: Every new term greater than million is one thousand times larger than the previous term.)

… but in this case, we are looking at the short end of the yard stick:

1 quadrillion = 1,000,000,000,000,000

15 zeroes. I looked it up on Google… where 1 google is the numerical 1 followed by 100 zeroes.

"How much for that loaf of bread? What do you mean no one can afford it?" One quadrillion is bigger than this bit of hyper inflation....
Anyhow…  for references sake… in 2012, the entire planet Earth consumed 155.5 petawatt hours of power.

By the way, 1 picosecond = one trillionth of a second.

What that means, is that the LFEX… the Laser for Fast ignition EXperiments (worst initial or acronym ever!) is powerful…. around the same strength or more than the BErkley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA - beauty, eh) or the Texas Pettawatt Laser (no acronym) - and all are considered to be 'ultra-fast, high-powered lasers'.

The 100-meter (328-foot) long LFEX laser system has a front end with a femtosecond (one quadrillionth, or one millionth of one billionth, of a second) oscillator, double pulse stretchers with diffraction grating pairs and three stages of optical parametric amplification (OPCPA - again... a terrible bit of abbreviation... you have to make it into something memorable.... like the word LASER = Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). Then there's a main amplifier, a pulse compressor and focusing optics.

It's okay… I watch a lot of The Big Bang Theory, and graduated from the Wile E. Coyote School of Rocket Science & Hard Knocks so I can tell you basically that energy to bounce off (repeatedly) some special glass which causes that energy to become stronger and stronger until such time that it is released - and ka-blooie, there goes Alderaan.

Well… not yet, anyways… it's not strong enough…. fortunately (?), the Japanese team plans on adding to the strength of the laser to get it up to 10 petawatts… they just need to improve their looking glass, I mean mirrors, to do so.

Non-plussed, there is word that China is also looking to create a 10 petawatt laser… but don't worry… everyone, including Europe, is using these powerful lasers to unravel the mysteries of particle physics, nanotechnology, fusion research and new material design.

And, even though no one mentioned it, it could be used by nefarious schemers to destroy buildings far away unless the get one million dollars! Er… one billion dollars. That's right… laser power meets Austin Powers.... or if you prefer... don't cross the streams...

Big Bang,
Andrew "Is it hot here or just me?" Joseph

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