back to article Two million-degree matter from SLAC laser

From “wow, that’s cold” we now get to meet a “wow, that’s hot” laser application, courtesy of the US Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory: its X-ray laser has created and probed matter as hot as the Sun’s corona. In a busy day at SLAC, the lab announced the creation of 2-million-degree Celsius matter, …


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  1. JDX Gold badge

    x-ray lasers sound rather scary. What about a gamma laser?

    1. Ru

      Much harder

      Electron-pushing is reasonably well understood these days; this means of generating a coherent xray pulse has been around for quite a few years now. No-one really has any idea how you can induce gamma ray emission... there's some research on nuclear isomers, but it hasn't borne much fruit yet. It isn't like people have exhausted the use of xray lasers yet, either!

      Also, these days x-ray and gamma-ray basically refer to the source of the photon (electron and nucleus respectively) rather than their relative power levels, which are a bit fuzzier to separate.

      1. fLaMePrOoF
        Thumb Down

        Of course, a better use of a powerful X-ray laser would be to turn it on all of the pseudo-intellectual wankers who regularly troll the Reg forums with pitiful examples of cleverer, (yes it is a word), they think they are than everybody else.

        Anyone who's icon use is pretty much limited to "D'oh", "Meh", "highly technical content", "No Shit Sherlock" and "Grammar Nazi" should probably be asking themselves, "am I really that much of a cunt?"

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "What about a gamma laser?"

      You might like to look up "pair production".

  2. ChuckInCA

    That's some hot stuff!

    But *nothing* is as hot as microwaved cheese sauce (think nacho cheese sauce or broccoli & cheese, or cauliflower & cheese, etc)

    1. Blofeld's Cat

      Have you not encountered a McDonalds apple pie?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Or coffee purchased on a train/from a station?

        1. Paul 129

          I thought misery

          Was a few hours after you ate a way too hot a curry.

          I'm sure this is what he's singing about

    2. jake Silver badge


      I can't remember who said it first:

      "Misery is a hot piece of pizza stuck to the roof of your mouth."

  3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Anybody not wearing 2 million sunblock...

    It's going to get messy when a military mounts this on a truck (or shark). IR lasers waste a lot of energy cutting a hole past the surface of targets. An x-ray laser would cook deeply through targets without needing power for melting or vaporization.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      X-ray does not penetrate many metal surfaces well (which is why old amalgam fillings wreak havoc with older CT reconstruction algorithms). Tank armor could absorb a hell of a lot before melting. A picosecond blast might be a tad short to do damage.

  4. j88per

    it burns it burns

    one of these days these goofy scientists are gonna make some plasma at 10 million degrees C and it'll get out of control and fry the atmosphere - I hope I sleep in on that day.

    1. Silverburn

      For some reason, I get the mental image of the death star frying tantooine.

      Did it use aggregated laser pumped plasma beams?

      When they find the way to accelerate plasma down linear paths, I know I can start designing that death star...

      1. Rick Giles

        Don't you mean


        1. Silverburn

          Yes. I mean no. F* it - I've got a death star. I'll do them both.

    2. Lee Dowling Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      "fry the atmosphere"

      Yeah - all that nitrogen. Frickin' dangerous that is, just sitting there waiting for an ignition source.

  5. Christoph

    That's got to be a better way

    Pumping the x-ray laser with the SLAC laser has got to be better than the previous method of doing it - pumping it with an atom bomb.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All fine and good

    ...but can I get a version small enough to mount on the heads of sharks?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      I've given up on that, we're just going to have to admit that we need bigger sharks.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        Yeah, I've been working on genetically reconstructing a Megalodon. But we're gonna need to pool resources - coz my bath just ain't big enough.


        1. J P

          We're going to have to work on the DNA a bit - I understand this laser is the length of Belgium and uses as much power as 1.2 miles. Or possibly the other way round; I'm not very good with units of measurement.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Power measurement

            As much power as 1.2 miles of what?

    2. Ru

      On absortion spectra

      X-rays are already pretty vigorously absorbed by air; an xray laser would be crap underwater. Please supply us with a shark capable of operating in a vacuum and we'll sort out the laser then.

  7. Bush_rat

    "All I want is frikin sharks with frikin lasers on their frikin heads!"

    All well and good it can fry a piece of aluminium at 2 million C, but:

    1. Does it work under water?

    2. Is it small enough to be carried by a large and dangerous fish?

    3. If 1 & 2 are not feasible, can i put it in a orbital satellite to fire on anyone that I see fit?

  8. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    A *cube* of plasma?

    Now that sounds like the neat trick - how did they get the nice square edges? Enquiring minds want to know!

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      Maybe they wanted to play dice at 2 million K

      Man that game is hot

      1. Syldra

        @Maybe they wanted to play dice at 2 million K

        I think you mean 2000273.15°K don't you ?

        No one cares for precision these days...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apple also want to know

      You said "Now that sounds like the neat trick - how did they get the nice square edges? Enquiring minds want to know!"

      Apples lawyers will be all over this - copyright design "we own any shape for a device even if we've not brought it out with that shape yet, we will."

  9. JDX Gold badge

    re: X-ray does not penetrate many metal surfaces well

    As opposed to visible light, which is well known for travelling through metal?

  10. Sir Runcible Spoon


    I'm wondering if this has a knock-on effect for the research into fusion.

    My brain hurts today, so don't be nasty if that was a really stupid question :)

  11. kyza

    Silverburn - Tatooine?

    T'was Alderaan that the Deathstar did the big firework on:

    Princess Leia: No! Alderaan is peaceful! We have no weapons, you can't possibly...

    Governor Tarkin: [impatiently] You would prefer another target, a military target? Then name the system! I grow tired of asking this so it will be the last time: *Where* is the rebel base?

    Princess Leia: ...Dantooine. They're on Dantooine.

    Governor Tarkin: There. You see, Lord Vader, she can be reasonable. Continue with the operation; you may fire when ready.

    Still - now there is such a thing as an Atomic X-Ray laser, is it worth pursuing science any longer?

    1. Silverburn

      <-- I'm doing this

  12. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    People have been describing desk top X-ray lasers for *decades*

    Although it is true the *original* SDI plan needed a small nuclear bomb as the pump source.

    The usual "desktop" setup has involved stripping the outside layers of electrons off atoms to get oxidation numbers into the 10s, then IIRC waiting for electrons to re-combine, emitting light in the process. The gas has been in a glass capilliary tube with some kind of spark being sent through it.

    However it's not quite clear if these were the real deal or if they were emitting laser-like radiation.

    If this is the first *real* X-ray laser IE *coherent* X-ray light by stimulated emission.

    It's still pretty nifty and *might* have some applications for fusion, but probably not in this generation of laser fusion systems.

  13. RISC OS

    Call that hot?

    You don't know the meaniong of the word hot.

    A core collapse supernova in it's final burning stage has a temperature of over 100 billion degrees kelvin.

    Now that's hot.

  14. Graham Marsden


    .... in his secret underground lair, Mad Professor von Krankenbrain is preparing his Atomic X-Ray Laser intending to hold the world to ransom!

    Will our heroes be able to stop his villainous masterplan before millions die...?

    Tune in for the next exciting episode!

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Graham Marsden

      ".... in his secret underground lair, Mad Professor von Krankenbrain is preparing his Atomic X-Ray Laser intending to hold the world to ransom!"

      Have you ever seen Dr Edward Teller speak?

  15. despun


    "The atomic laser also fulfills a prediction from the earliest days of lasers"

    It fullfulls the predictions of Einstein's paper on the stimulated emission of radiation, pre-dating the first laser ( and the earlier maser ) by many decades.

  16. Mike Powers

    Sounds like a Tom Swift title

    "Tom Swift and his Atomic X-Ray Laser"

    It's the term 'atomic' that does it, really; rather than the newfangled 'nuclear'. But then, 'nuclear' is so often linked to 'bomb' or 'disaster' so I can see how they'd want to avoid it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Atomic X-Ray Laser"?

    Sounds like something that would ruin your love life if you stand in front of it in a 1950s B-movie.....

  18. Esskay

    So how long...

    Before I can buy a microwave with this tech? 2 minutes is way too long to wait for leftovers to heat up.

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