Mar. 11, 2006

Science Fiction - Not.


This is is not a scene from a science fiction film. It's a photograph of a real thing, called the "Z Machine", in operation. The Z Machine is an experimental particle accelerator used for nuclear fusion research at Sandia National Laboratories. It only operates for a tiny fraction of a second, but this is what it looks like while it is generating temperatures of 1.8 million degrees Celsius and producing 290 trillion watts. This is 80 times the electrical output of the entire world, but only for a few billionths of a second.

When I saw this picture all I could say was "wow." The equipment is submerged in an insulating pool of water, and the dramatic arcing is a product of electrical leakage. Click on the picture to see a higher-resolution version. The Z Machine is in the news at the moment because it recently achieved a high enough power output to hint at practical fusion power generation. That would mean "free" "endless" power...

Listening to: Use It by The New Pornographers from Twin Cinema.

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