back to article Record-breaking laser pulse boosts fusion power hopes

The world's most powerful laser has fired a record-breaking pulse that exceeded even its own design goals. For 23 billionths of a second, the 192 ultraviolet lasers in the National Ignition Facility generated the equivalent of 411 trillion watts of peak power, which the NIF described as being 1,000 times more energy than the …


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  1. J. Cook Silver badge

    One has to wonder...

    ... if the shot director said "commence primary ignition" and the whole lab made a downward -sweeping tone as it came up to full power.

    Mines the one with the UV absorbing weave.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One has to wonder...

      And if they looked outside, all the street lamps went very dim.

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Re: One has to wonder...

      They should have asked for a plasma pulse laser in 40 watt range

    3. dssf

      Re: One has to wonder...

      Whether half the lab followed it with:

      "Hwonkk Hwonkk-Hwonkk -Hwonkk -Hwonkk!

      Hwonkk Hwonkk-Hwonkk -Hwonkk -Hwonkk!

      Spatial rift -- OPENING!

      Hwonkk Hwonkk-Hwonkk -Hwonkk -Hwonkk!

      Hwonkk Hwonkk-Hwonkk -Hwonkk -Hwonkk!

      Spatial rift -- OPENING!



      TEMPORAL destabilization -- IMMINENT!

      TEMPORAL destabilization -- IMMINENT!

  2. Daedalus

    Boring arrogant factoidery

    Ah yes 1.8 MJ. About the energy stored in a car battery.

    1. Annihilator

      Re: Boring arrogant factoidery

      Maybe, but try discharging a car battery in 23 billionths of a second in a single highly focused beam, I think you'll struggle. They didn't just drop a spanner on the batteries terminals and see what occurred...

      1. durandal

        Re: Boring arrogant factoidery

        but I like to think that in the deepest, darkest part of the night shift, someone stood there thinking "what would happen if I put my finger in there?"

      2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Dropping spanners on batteries

        A mate of mine did that by accident once. I'll swear I ducked so fast my feet left the ground due to Newton's third law. The forearm-long chrome vanadium steel spanner was bent through ~120 degrees and glowed yellow hot where it wasn't embedded in the garage wall.

        1. dssf

          Re: Dropping spanners on batteries

          Did the air sizzle, or did it hum?

          jzzzz jzzzzz-zzzzhhhhzzzhhzzz jzzzz jzzzzz-zzzzhhhhzzzhhzzz jzzzz jzzzzz-zzzzhhhhzzzhhzzz jzzzz jzzzzz-zzzzhhhhzzzhhzzz


          ngyyeeeenggngggnnnggg ngyyeeeenggngggnnnggg ngyyeeeenggngggnnnggg ngyyeeeenggngggnnnggg


        2. Anonymous Coward

          That seems unlikely

          If it "exploded", it couldn't have been in contact long enough to glow yellow hot. It certainly wasn't my experience when I did something similar. When I was in high school my lab partner and I dropped a large screwdriver across the terminals of a 12v auto battery the teacher had sitting in the front (this was before class started) There was some sparking, and the screwdriver welded itself to the terminals. It probably got really hot - no way to know as while it wasn't glowing no one was brave enough to touch it other than the teacher trying to knock it off with a wooden ruler.

          Fortunately we didn't get in any trouble, since the teacher was the kind who didn't mind these sorts of "experiments" as its the sort of thing he'd have been likely to do himself . He once burned all the hair off one of his arms as an 8 foot tall flame leapt out of a gas nozzle when he was messing about for a class demo in a way the maker of that gas nozzle would clearly not recommend.

          The battery was sitting on the table like that for the whole class, and after the first few seconds of sparking didn't do anything further, such as melting or exploding.

  3. hungry thylacine

    ...and they're containing it in, ....?

    if and when they fire this tiny 'sun on earth' up what do they propose to keep it in?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...and they're containing it in, ....?

      They use magnetic fields to hold it in place.

      1. MacroRodent

        Re: ...and they're containing it in, ....?

        > They use magnetic fields to hold it in place.

        Er, isn't the major advantage of the laser-ignited fusion that you don't have to confine the plasma? You shoot the lasers at a fuel pellet to ignite a miniature fusion explosion, harvest the energy from the short-lived fireball, then inject the next pellet for the lasers to ignite. So the reactor operates in a pulsed fashion, like an internal combustion engine.

      2. Oninoshiko

        Re: Norfolk 'n' Goode

        Actually, they are working on Inertal containment, NOT magnetic containment.

        ITER is working an Magnetic Containment. Frankly, I think Internal may be more promising though.

    2. Muckminded

      Re: ...and they're containing it in, ....?

      Obviously, they will need the expertise of Dr. Otto Octavius, who has excellent experience building tritium reactors in the hollowed-out shells of buildings. It's only a wee little piece of the sun, after all, no big whoop. Use friggin magnets and such.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ...and they're containing it in, ....?

        "Guy named Otto Octavius winds up with eight limbs. What are the odds?"

        One of the greatest lines in motion picture history.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ...and they're containing it in, ....?

        > ... Use friggin magnets ...

        Fridge magnets. Lots of them.

    3. Esskay

      Re: ...and they're containing it in, ....?

      Down the back of the couch. As everyone knows, the energy required to retrieve something from the back of the couch > the value of the object being retrieved.

      1. dssf

        Re: ...and they're containing it in, ....?

        Is any pre-filtering required? Imagine the possible contamination from coins, paper clips, body hair, skin, mites, and a few misplaced fusion pellets...

    4. Geoff Campbell Silver badge

      Re: ...and they're containing it in, ....?

      Oh, tsk. That's just an implementation detail.


    5. Gordon 10

      @thylacine Re: ...and they're containing it in, ....?

      Your momma.

  4. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    In the instant when they fire the National Ignition Facility death ray, that -is- how much energy the U.S. uses in an instant, that particular instant, or do I err?

    I'm glad I don't get their electricity bill.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "or do I err?"

      I think you err.

      It's equivalent to 1000* the entire US electricity consumption but not for very long.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "or do I err?"

        But if this laser is in the US then how can it's energy usage be equivalent to 1000 times it's own energy usage?

        1. David 30

          Re: "or do I err?"

          That's the genius of it - it produces 1000* it's own energy, which then clearly becomes 1000*1000* it's own energy, and so on - thereby generating an infinite amount of energy, and solving the world's energy problems at a stroke.


          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "or do I err?"

            If it produced 1000 times its own energy then you'd be right -- unfortunately it consumes 1000 times its own energy.

        2. Chemist

          Re: "or do I err?"

          Are you actually asking a serious question ?

          That's why AC said "it's equivalent to 1000* the US consumption" NOT the US consumption. As others have noted it's only a couple of MJ anyway and that is probably built up in the capacitors over a period.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "or do I err?"

          In the US, nothing is 1000 times anything. 25.4 times, on the other hand, or 3.78541178 times, or ...

          1. dssf

            Re: "or do I err?"

            HAHAHA Huh?

            A 10" gummy bear is 1000x bigger than a normal gummy bear.


            I didn't look for values for Gummy Tongues, Gummy Brains, and Gummy Hearts...

            I found that when querying "Texas is 1000 times bigger than..."

            (They are in Raleigh, NC...)

            Butt, I suspect that anyone eating a 10" Gummy Bear will prosume (produce and consume) all sorts of MJs trying to send that gelatin consumption back in time....

      2. The First Dave

        Re: "or do I err?"

        No, it isn't greater than the entire US consumption, since they are actually _in_ the USA, it may be greater than consumption at any _other_ instant, but cannot possibly be greater than (itself plus a little bit)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "or do I err?"

        'It's equivalent to 1000* the entire US electricity consumption but not for very long.'

        EDF would still find a way of overcharging you.

    2. Parax

      Electricity Bill

      Its really not much.. the 23billionths of a second is such a short duration it makes all the comparison numbers massive the 411trillion watts for example is joules per whole second. Its still only 2MJ total, which has been said above is about a car battery.

      The next trick is to get more than 2MJ energy out.... how are they doing on that front? have they ignited fuel yet?

      (btw just like black holes mini suns need fuel the fuel pellets contain enough fuel for the mini sun to burn for a tiny fraction of a second, meaning it will self extinguish very rapidly, containment is not necessary.)

    3. stanimir

      The energy burst is equivalent of keeping your home stove on for about 10minutes, (3.5kW*600 = 2.1MJ) the electricity bill is trivial on "that" consumption level.

      Keep in mind the energy is released in just several billionths of a second.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Considering the losses must be important, it probably corresponds to a largish kitchen.

  5. Abend

    Different objective

    It's doubtful they will produce sustained fusion, which was never their objective anyway. Their mandate is to study nuclear fusion so that they can assess and maintain nuclear weapons without underground tests.

    1. Schultz

      Re: Different objective

      Their objective is to prove that they can generate more energy in a single laser-driven fusion event than they need to create this very fusion event. If you ignore the fact that they spent significant amounts of energy to build, maintain and operate the whole thing, you might call this 'break even'.

      Ooh, and of course they have the plans in the drawer to build the next generation ignition facility, which might actually generate electrical power. But that is some 30 years in the future ... some things just never change.

  6. Pen-y-gors
    Thumb Down


    All very clever from a techie point of view, but ultimately going in completely the wrong direction. Even if they reach their ultimate goal of harnessing fusion and generating terawatts (at a price too low to meter), it's a massively high risk strategy. Why do we need electricity/energy? Ultimately so that we can keep warm, lighten our darkness, cook our food and automate tasks. If we develop a society where we have to spend umpteen billion to build one fusion reactor (albeit one that will provide power for 100 million homes) we are done for. Because what happens when that reactor fails? Or becomes controlled by one person or corporation? And suddenly 100 million homes are cold and dark?

    One of the biggest plus factors for many forms of renewable power generation is that they can be built and used and controlled locally. (Okay, same is true of coal, oil etc, but that's often dirty and dangerous) . There isn't a single point of failure that can affect thousands or millions of people. If I want to make a pot of soup I don't want to have to be dependent on 192 DEATH-RAYS under the control of some greedy/crazy government/corporation.

    Small is beautiful folks.

    1. frank ly

      Re: K.I.S.S.

      I understand your concerns, but as development proceeds then miniaturisation and mass production economies will eventually allow neighbourhoods or even individuals to have their own 'Mr. Fusion' reactor, to supply power under local control.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: K.I.S.S.

        Some things can be miniaturised - transistors, my earning power, etc.

        Some things are subject to fundamental physical constraints which make them hard (maybe even impossible) to miniaturise.

        It's been a long while since I looked in detail at NIF but I'd be very surprised if the technology could be miniaturised in any meaningful way.

        In fact as has been pointed out, it's not even intended to supply power on a continuous basis (ie not pulsed) which in itself raises quite a few questions re adapting the technology for meaningful power generation.

        Power from fusion is still twenty years away, same as it has been for decades.

        K.I.S.S. is a good idea in general. All eggs in one basket is a bad idea in general. Not sure why so many downvotes for the K.I.S.S post, but I guess I'm next.

        1. ed 8

          Re: K.I.S.S.

          Dude, its american, they will definity have built it much bigger than necessary. its the american way.

        2. CaptainHook

          Re: K.I.S.S.

          "In fact as has been pointed out, it's not even intended to supply power on a continuous basis (ie not pulsed)"

          Wow, just wow.

          Have you ever looked at a car engine? Pulses of power providing smooth power output for millions of people every single day.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @CaptainHook 08:54

            Thanks for that, I have indeed looked in reasonable detail at infernal and external combustion engines, both rotating and reciprocating, thank you. Thermodynamics was one of my favourite subjects when I took my physics degree. Solid state physics was another. I don't do physics any more, I are engineer.

            Have YOU looked in any detail at how the fusion people are proposing to extract electricity from their pulsed fusion reactions?

            Go on, give me a link or three, and someone with a clue will pull the physics and/or engineering to pieces within hours. Not *just* because it's pulsed, but the pulsing isn't exactly helpful.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: K.I.S.S.

          Power from fusion is always twenty years away. There's a kind of poetry in that statement.

          But, and it's a big but, we only need one working example to be able to replicate it.

          Once we have one generator pushing out the watts, it can be used to power the next experiments, for free.

          Overnight it will have more funding than the oil industry.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: K.I.S.S. downvotes

          I would guess its because he used the term DEATH-RAYS in a semi serious way.

        5. hayseed

          Re: K.I.S.S.

          Not true about miniaturization. Scientists have noted that technology for much smaller lasers exists today, so the same facility could be rebuilt much smaller say ten years in the future, at which time advances the military is making in making high-powered compact lasers would allow it to be more compact ten years from then, etc.

      2. Neil B

        Re: K.I.S.S.

        Glad I wasn't the only one thinking "Mr. Fusion" throughout that entire article.

    2. fatchap

      Re: K.I.S.S.

      Name one form of renewable power generation that, with current technology, can be built and used locally to the point where it can exclude the need for non-renewables?

      1. dkjd

        Re: K.I.S.S.

        Solar powered mobile phone chargers

      2. Nigel 11

        Re: K.I.S.S.

        Solar (PV or thermal)

        It's not economically competitive yet against burning fossil fuel(*), but if those fuels were not available it could certainly take over the planet's electricity generation and maintain a technological civilisation.

        (*) Had just about got there in Arizona, but then the gas industry worked out how to extract tight gas by fraccing, and now there's a natural gas glut in the USA.

        1. Yag

          Re: K.I.S.S.

          Solar have a tendency to be quite unefficient at night and during winter.

          Energy needs are at a peak during winter.

          I won't even start to comment on the effects of desert sand dust on solar pannels or on mirrors.

          However, solar is still a good way to reduce the energy needed for heating water in sunny areas.

        2. DJ Smiley

          Re: K.I.S.S.

          Which non-rare renewable earth metals are you using in your solar panels so I too can have some?

      3. hayseed

        Re: K.I.S.S.

        Here we have the big problem. If you are going to supply a lot of power from wind, you have to average it over a large grid to minimize the amount of backup power needed. Thus, the more competent advocates of renewables concede the need for much investment in the U.S. grid. (I don't know anything about the U.K. grid, it might be a marvel).

    3. Yag

      Those who fail at history...

      "One of the biggest plus factors for many forms of renewable power generation is that they can be built and used and controlled locally."

      Well, let's go back in time... back to the 1800s...

      All the major factories have their own local power generators - steam engines mostly. All the needed power was built and used and controlled locally.

      The trouble was that the maintenance was a chore, the generator was not used to full capacity most of the time and if anything break, ouch.

      Those are most of the reason for the switch to the centrally produced/grid distributed network we've got now.

      - Maintenance : you don't need 1000 times the people to maintain a generator 1000 times more powerful. (heck! it's a good point! it creates jobzzzz! who care if the leecy bills goes up thru the roof due to the extra costs)

      - Capacity : It's still a major issue, but it is far smoother than before.

      - Breakdown : if one station fails, other stations can usually cope with it. Japan is still mostly functionnal even with the loss of one of the most powerful nuke station in the world*

      - Reliability : The new** renewables are mostly those damned unreliable windmills that may produce 25MW one day and 0 the next...

      If you've got another way for solving the last 3 issues than keeping a grid system, just tell me, I'm all ears.

      And if you're stuck with a grid system, good luck to manage it if it's not centrally controlled...

      Controlling the production is useless if someone else controls the distribution.

      *I know, Fuckushima was planned for retirement, and the backup was already in place...

      ** Hydroelectric is not a new renewable. It have a lot of major advantages, like cheapness, mature technology, capacity and localized environnemental damages (Turning valleys in huge lakes *is* environmental damage...). And guess what? Power companies knows it and already invested in it since the beggining. In a lot of countries, there is not much room for further exploitation. Geothermal is another reliable renewable, but you have to live on a freaking volcano for it to be economically viable.

  7. Dodgy Dave

    Oh, the irony

    Anyone remember those "Nuclear power - no thanks" bumper stickers beloved of 70's hippies, the words being written around the edge of a smiling picture of, er, the sun.

    1. Captain Hogwash

      Re: Oh, the irony

      Yes and I also remember the ones that said "Aging hippies - no thanks".

    2. AbortRetryFail

      Re: Oh, the irony

      There was a lovely riposte to "Nuclear Power? No thanks." made by the Atomic Energy Authority with the slogan "Stone age? No thanks. Atoms for Energy!"

      A quick google images search showed up this picture of it:

    3. Graham Marsden

      Re: Oh, the irony

      Please try to comprehend the fundamental difference between Fission and Fusion, thank you.

  8. Gusty O'Windflap

    when I was a nipper...

    the local library had several science fiction anthonlogies and in one story, if i remember correctly it was called Bilbo's Star, people could make their own star rather like building a airfix model, only Bilbo's star was not quite right, more of a rugby ball shape and the more he "fed" his star to try and make it look the right shape the worse it got until one day it collapsed on itself and started to devour everything. Articles like this always remind me of that story. No real point, just thought i would share.

    1. DragonLord

      Re: when I was a nipper...

      I remember that story :) I always wondered about the physics of it though.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Sadly the development of the transport system has hit some snags

    However the 100m shark breeding programmes will be starting up real soon.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't all of those...

    ...lanyards and ID cards get in the way of them using the equipment?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't all of those...

      but its a necessary evil to keep those pesky iranians from getting in and stealing deathray technology

      1. Charlie van Becelaere

        Re: Don't all of those...

        Mr President, we cannot afford a DEATH-RAY gap!

  11. David_H

    Infinite enery

    Just tap the output of a woman scorned!

    1. Yag

      Re: Infinite enery

      Thermonuclear has no fury like a woman scorned? Good one!

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Infinite enery


  12. samlebon23

    That's it no more wars, no more terrorism.

    1. Crisp

      There will still be wars and terrorism. Except that now it will be FUSION POWERED!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All very well and good; but does it fit on a shark?

    1. relpy

      The really amazing thing

      is that they get all 192 sharks to point in just right direction all at the same time!

  14. umacf24

    Getting the energy out

    This is fascnating but one point with fusion reactors that never seems to be addressed is how to get the energy into electricity generation. A laser chamber seems to be even worse at this than the magnetic confinement systems we've played with since the fifties.

    The reaction is inside what amounts to a huge vacuum tube so it won't convect out. You could let the radiance make the enclosure hot enough to allow decent thermodynamic efficiency but at the same time you have to keep the laser objectives or superconducting coils cool and stable.

    Some sort of MHD generation might be a runner, but the fusion reactions that get discussed yield high proportions -- like 80% -- of the energy in fast neutrons, and neutrons don't play the magnetic game.

    The only really practical means I can see is to line the chamber with depleted uranium and let the neutrons breed plutonium and other transuranics to fuel fission reactors. But that seems a bit of a palaver compared with running a fast breeder fission reactor directly. I'm flummoxed.

    1. Mechanic

      Re: Getting the energy out

      Actually this is solved at the same time as the tritium breeding problem. The fusion reaction currently envisaged is deutrium-tritium fusion. Tritium is not a naturally occurring element so it has to be bred by neutron bombardment of lithium. This reaction has a reasonably high cross section so it can absorb a fair number of neutrons and produces tritium and helium which then stop fairly rapidly in solid materials depositing all the original neutron energy. The net result is that the lithium blanket heats as it generates the needed tritium, and the heat can be recovered in fairly conventional ways.

      Designing these blanket systems is a fairly big engineering problem, but it's almost certainly solvable once we've got a self-sustaining fusion reaction to go in the middle.

      1. umacf24

        Re: Getting the energy out

        Nice. Like catching the neutrons in little nets.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those damn scientists.

    First they try to destroy the universe with their CERN thingy and now they're trying to turn the Earth into a flaming ball of fire.

    Can't they just calm down and watch some tv or something?

  16. Ironclad

    So is it only me who looked at that picture.....

    ....and thought The Big Bang Theory ?

    From left to right, Raj, Howard, Leonard, Sheldon.

    Friday caption competition anyone ?

    1. Jinxter

      Re: So is it only me who looked at that picture.....


      Howard: '...and if we just gently increase the output and traverse in a series of a horizontal patterns across they entire surface and ... thats it!! The worlds first ultraviolet laser prepared poptart.'

  17. Great Bu

    2 Things

    2 things spring to mind:

    1) I am so getting a 'Shot Director' sign for my desk (let people decide for themselves what it means...)

    2) Has no-one considered the feelings of the people of Alderaan ?

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Matt_payne666

      we are going to need a bigger shark............

  19. Dr_Barnowl

    NIF is a weapons research project

    NIF is funded largely by the military. It's primary purpose is to be able to examine the physics of fusion reactions without letting off H-bombs. The whole "fusion energy" angle is merely great PR.

    To make this into a commercial fusion generator, you have to scale things up somewhat.

    Currently NIF fires a few shots per day. To make a commercial reactor, you'd have to fire about 10 shots per second.

    So instead of carefully positioning the fuel target in the centre of the laser array with micrometre precision, you'd essentially need a machine gun. A cryogenically cooled machine gun that never misfires and shoots with micrometre precision.

    Oh, and the ammunition. The fact that each round is composed of a fuel pellet contained in a beryllium sphere surrounded by a cylinder of gold-plated uranium is not what makes the fuel expensive. What makes the fuel expensive is that it contains tritium, one of the rarest substances on Earth. The USA has only ever made 225kg of this element, and only 65kg of it is left - most of that loss just from natural decay. Even though each pellet only has a few mg of fuel, at 10 shots a second, you'd burn through that tritium reserve in less than a year, for just one reactor.

    And how to extract energy? Well, you have to take the heat and generate electricity... so you have to put a large heat exchanger in the reactor. And somehow not obstruct the laser array that shoots the pellets when you do so.

    Oh, and the laser array... currently about 1% efficient. So you'd have to either improve that greatly, or generate more than 200 times the energy you put in (accounting for efficiency of steam turbines). And ramping things up to make the laser fire 10 times a second seems difficult given they currently only fire a few shots a day.

    Laser-initiated inertial confinement fusion does not seem practical.

  20. kyza

    This is, of course, basically exciting news and while those who are pointing out the practical issues associated with extracting energy from fusion have a point, I'm inclined to wave my hand and say 'Pfft! Engineering my friend.'

    Of course, that comment only holds true once we've got net power gain from a fusion process.

    *excited about visit to Culham on 11th April*

  21. Alan Bourke



  22. Alan Firminger

    Professor Brian Cox showed this

    About 2006 Brian Cox had a tv series touring the world looking at fusion power trial work.

    He showed this, it is massive in what looked like an aircraft hanger.

    At the end of the series he was asked what he thought the most promising and replied this one. So he is not just a pretty face.

  23. Barracoder

    Only two decades away!

    Or maybe only 19 years and 364 days away now, excluding leap years.

  24. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Energy, power, cabbages, whatever...

    "which the NIF described as being 1,000 times more energy than the entire US uses "at any instant in time"."

    I hope they didn't. It's 1000 times more than the *power* drawn by the US over any normal timescale, but the failure to distinguish between energy and energy-per-unit-time is a bit sad, given that the point of the sentence was to play a game around that very idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Energy, power, cabbages, whatever...

      You beat me to it. Thank you.

      If you talk about "energy at any instant in time" you are talking nonsense, as energy is power * time - let time go to zero (an instant) and energy by definition goes to zero too.

      And I'd hope anybody working on fusion would know the difference - and I'm sure they did. But the meatbag of a distorter^Wreporter didn't.

  25. Philip Lewis
    Paris Hilton

    "Strike a light, Batman"

    That's how I read it, anyway.

    Paris, who is also strikingly light.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I do hope there's a big lever labelled DANGER!, a Jacob's Ladder fizzing in the background and a hunchbacked assistant on call for when the head boffin says 'MORE POWER!'

    1. Fred 4

      @Hunched back assistant

      or at least to make sure that they get the right brain! Abby.... Abby something..... :)

  27. Daedalus

    More factoidery

    It's worth noting that, given the monstrous inefficiency of lasers in general, that 1.8 MJ at the sharp end can require 100 MJ of input. The energy payoff must be correspondingly impressive.

  28. Fred 4

    I can think of one OTHER use for this tech

    there is a design for an interplanetary/interstellar drive called a Daedelus drive - see :

    Lucifer's Hammer, Niven & Pournelle also see :

    But in both of these instances, the propulsion was fission - however, hydrogen is plentiful in the universe in general, and a pulsed FUSION drive might be a workable concept, at our current level of technology. Sort of a mix between a Bussard Ramjet ( and Daedelus drive.

    btw - just to complete the sci-fi references :)

    Tau Zero, Pol Anderson - is an interesting story about the use of a Bussard ramjet

    icon for obvious reasons :)

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All very impressive

    But it still feels a bit like trying to make a fire by striking a damp match. A few more sparks this time, but we've still no idea when we'll be able to get the fire lit. Brrr.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2.03 million joules

    So how many Jiggawatts (a la back to the future) is that?

This topic is closed for new posts.