Sunday, May 22, 2005


Astronomers theorize that when a massive star goes nova, the helium gas explodes outwards but the remaining mass of the star, being heavy metals, collapses inwards until it is very small and very dense and becomes a possible black hole. One can detect when this level of fatal collapse occurs because of the very brief momentary flash it creates. These flashes can out shine galaxies.

Now humans get closer to creating such an entity:
Ed Moses talks of the "grand challenge" that has consumed him for the past five years, comparing it to trying to hit the strike zone with a baseball from 350 miles away or tossing a dime into a parking meter from 40 miles. "That's the precision we have to have," says Moses, the director of a high-energy physics adventure to produce the world's most powerful laser — one that scientists hope will create in a laboratory the energy found at the center of the sun.

In a building the size of a football stadium, engineers have assembled the framework for a network of 192 laser beams, each traveling 1,000 feet to converge simultaneously on a target the size of a pencil eraser.

The trip will take one-thousandth of a second during which the light's energy is amplified many billions of times to create a brief laser pulse 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States.

The goal is to create unimaginable heat — 180 million degrees Farenheit — and intense pressure from all directions on a BB-size hydrogen fuel pellet, compressing it to one-thirtieth of its size.

The result, the scientists hope, will be a fusing of atoms so that more energy is released than is generated by the laser beams, something scientists call fusion ignition. It is what happens when a hydrogen bomb explode
This is all rather depressing since one can bet, the chief use of this possible technology will be to build some monstrous thing that can destroy potential rivals.

Years ago I wrote a short tale: Mother Nature sat on a rock at the edge of space and time. The traveler from a far away village chanced upon her. She frightened him so he only peered at Her from far away. He then ran home and told everyone, 'I saw Mother Nature. She sits on a rock at the edge of the Universe. She is covered with this veil."

Wanting to know more, another traveler set out to see Her. He was less in awe and ventured close enough to get a good look. He ran home. "I saw Mother Nature. She is covered with a veil. On it are woven all the plants and animals in the world."

This interested several people who took off with appropriate instruments to examine Mother Nature. They spent a year and a day examining Her. Happy, they ran back and said this, "Mother Nature has an amazing veil. It is wonderously woven. The threads are amazingly complex. It is huge. Here are the measurements and the analysis of the chemistry and molecular matrix of this veil."

"Well enough," said one sceptic. "We know a great deal about Mother Nature's veil but we know nothing about Herself." This was true. So one person stood up and announced, "I will unveil Mother Nature". Setting off, the traveler went to Her. Grabbing the enveloping mass, yanked it....The Greek word for "unveil" is the "Apocalypse".

My father wanted to put this in Physics Today but they rejected it because it was too grim. It is grim. Alas.

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