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Lasers Approach Their Ultimate Intensity Limit

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the biggest-pointer dept.

Science 384

Flash Modin writes "Death Star style superlasers? Don't bet on it. High-power lasers currently in development appear to be nearing the theoretical laser intensity limit, according to new research set to be published in the journal Physical Review Letters. Ultra-high-energy laser fields can actually convert their light into matter as shown in the late '90s at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC). This process creates an 'avalanche-like electromagnetic cascade' (also known as sparking the vacuum) capable of destroying a laser field. Physicists thought it might be a problem for lasers eventually, but this work indicates the technology is much closer to its limit than researchers believed. A preprint is available here."

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384 comments

No death star :( (2, Funny)

Reibisch (1261448) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219294)

Simply :(

Re:No death star :( (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219434)

I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Re:No death star :( (1, Funny)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219852)

Don't be too proud of this technological terror. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the, erm, slashdot mods.

Re:No death star :( (2, Insightful)

SirRedTooth (1785808) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219902)

We can still fire objects into planets at faster than light speed. Theoretically. (You know the whole move space but not the object thing?)

Re:No death star :( (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219744)

Don't worry. They didn't read the fine print. The Death Star uses turbolasers [starwars.com], not regular lasers. Sometimes turbolaser is shortened to the more common term "laser", but they mean "turbolaser".

Maybe, maybe not (4, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219300)

Creating light from matter is rather ordinary in terms of physics, as can be seen in nuclear explosions

Or even running out of lighter fluid.

The SLAC experiment was just a singular event, but as lasers reach higher intensities the electric fields produced will increase as well and the team says that when they reach a critical intensity a cascade effect will occur as a result. The electron-positron pair is accelerated by the laser field itself at such high energies that they emit photons capable of spawning new pairs and continuing the process.

Maybe that's how the death star works? Besides, it isn't explicitly stated anywhere in the movies that the death star is a laser.

Also, they're not talking about a single laser, they're talking about colliding two laser beams.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219386)

Burning lighter fluid is a chemical reaction, the same amount of matter exists before and after, it just exists in new compounds. Nuclear explosions actually destroy matter.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219586)

Only if you count photons as matter.

lighter fluid. (0)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219608)

When you burn it, some radiation (light/IR) escapes, this is some (theoretical) energy=mass that escapes. But that are not actual quantities you take into consideration. You will run out of fluid long before this amount is weighted.

Re:lighter fluid. (4, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219712)

But it is energy that was stored in a either a chemical bond, or an electron state. Matter does not disappear, it is just electrons rearranging their orbits. If you count all the protons, neutrons and electrons before and after the chemical reaction, they're all still there.

Re:lighter fluid. (0)

waives (1257650) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219826)

And if you count all the subatomic particles before and after a nuclear reaction, they are all still there as well.

It is only in a matter/antimatter reaction that matter particles are destroyed.

GP is correct, the chemical and nuclear reactions are completely analogous, in each there is a change in mass due to a change in bond energies, but this change is much smaller in magnitude in chemical reactions.

Re:lighter fluid. (2, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219846)

If you count all the protons, neutrons and electrons before and after the chemical reaction, they're all still there.

But the mass is not.

Re:lighter fluid. (5, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219898)

Both nuclear and chemical reactions destroy matter, if you can call that destroying matter.

In a chemical reaction, electrons change states. In an exothermal chemical reaction, the energy of those electron states is lower than the energy of the electron states before the reaction, and energy is released in another form (photons, kinetic energy, etc.). If you count the neutrons, protons, and electrons, they're all still there. But mass has been lost, because the binding energy of the electrons counts in the mass of the molecule. (In the reaction, binding energy was lost and converted to another form. Energy is mass.) However, chemical binding energy is tiny compared to the energy in the rest mass of protons, neutrons, and electrons.

In a nuclear reaction (fission and fusion), the states of nucleons (neutrons and protons) also change. Again, if you count the neutrons, protons, and electrons, the same ones present before are present after. (Sometimes they change form, like n p + e.) But mass has been lost, because the binding energy between the nucleons counts in the mass of the atom. (In the reaction, binding energy was lost and converted to another form. Energy is mass.) Nuclear binding energy is still small compared to energy in rest mass, but it's a lot bigger than chemical binding energy.

Re:lighter fluid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219872)

Burning is an "energy in chemical bonds" to "black body radiation" conversion, releasing photons.
Photons have no mass, thus you are wrong.

The problem in TFA is the reverse, enough energy is being concentrated on one place that it is spontaneously converting to matter.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219634)

Burning lighter fluid is a chemical reaction, the same amount of matter exists before and after, it just exists in new compounds. Nuclear explosions actually destroy matter.

Well, no. Some of the matter was converted into energy, and dissipated as heat and light.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1, Insightful)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219864)

No, it is stored in chemical bonds, not in the form of matter

unless you believe you actually lose weight when falling of a building, because some of your matter is converted into kinetic energy..

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219780)

Burning lighter fluid is a chemical reaction, the same amount of matter exists before and after, it just exists in new compounds. Nuclear explosions actually destroy matter.

Seriously? Nuclear explosions don't destroy anything. They split atoms into smaller atoms (or merge two atoms into a larger atom with fusion) which releases energy held up in the atom itself. Matter is definitely not destroyed. The only way to "destroy" matter (turn matter into energy; you can't completely destroy it) is with anti-matter.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219796)

No, they convert it into energy. The same amount of matter/energy as before so long as you realize those two things are interchangeable.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219396)

It doesn't have to be two colliding laser beams. There are photons practically everywhere going in every direction. If the laser is powerful enough it will happen sooner or later as it travels through space.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (4, Funny)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219452)

Its true. We don't really know how the Death Star works. That's always been my biggest pet peeve with the "Star Wars" movies in that they really played up the "rebel vs. empire" theme (with a real bias towards the rebels IMO) and didn't focus on the technology or culture of that era. It really makes the documentary as a whole seem more like a fictional tale or something. Maybe Ken Burns will revisit that period of the galactic history and we'll get a more neutral viewpoint of the conflict.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1)

cyber0ne (640846) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219556)

Maybe Ken Burns will revisit that period of the galactic history and we'll get a more neutral viewpoint of the conflict.

Depending on how long ago and how far away, we might be getting a neutral viewpoint of it right now.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1)

Wumpus (9548) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219626)

Please, anybody BUT Ken Burns. He'll go on and on about how great Figrin D'an's early work was, and completely ignore his later groundbreaking musical accomplishments.

Re:Maybe Ken Burns will revisit that period... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219708)

...and we'll get pod races with shit-kicking banjo music.

Galactic History by Ken Burns (2, Interesting)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219800)

You're joking, right? About how "Ken Burns will revisit that period of the galactic history and we'll get a more neutral viewpoint of the conflict."

For "more neutral viewpoint", substitute:

"Ken sank his heart and soul into this thing, and it's obvious that he's still grieving for Alderaan."

Don't forget the soft, heart-felt banjo-centric soundtrack.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (0)

nizo (81281) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219964)

The power to destroy a planet is insignificant when compared to the power of the Sarcasm.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (4, Informative)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219482)

Or even running out of lighter fluid.

If you could track every atom of the lighter fluid, you'd see that there are as many atoms from the lighter fluid around after the combustion as before. In a nuclear explosion, there are fewer atoms around.

Also, they're not talking about a single laser, they're talking about colliding two laser beams.

They're aiming an electron beam at a laser - not quite the same thing as aiming two lasers at each other. Furthermore, the key part is not the e-beam, but the gamma-rays that come from the electron-photon collision, which then interact with the laser. The issue is that once you create one electron-positron pair from photons, you can get a cascade reaction where there are so many electrons/positrons floating around that you don't have a coherent laser field anymore.

It'll be a fascinating sight to see, surely.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219726)

In a nuclear explosion, there are fewer atoms around.
That depends entirely on the nuclear bomb. Fission weapons work by splitting uranium and/or plutonium into smaller atoms, at least doubling the number of atoms hanging around. Fusion weapons would result in fewer atoms, if they did not use fission triggers.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1)

kingramon0 (411815) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219868)

A certain amount of matter is converted into energy in every nuclear blast. That is why the equation E=MC^2 comes into play. It allows you to calculate the amount of M that was converted into E if you measure the amount of energy released in the blast.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (2, Informative)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219920)

That comes from the binding energy of the nucleus. The number of nucleons remains the same.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1)

mortonda (5175) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219908)

More to the point, there are fewer neutons/protons/electrons around. IIRC, it's the neutrons that are getting converted into energy, right?

Re:Maybe, maybe not (2, Interesting)

waives (1257650) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219840)

Someone with a nick like yours should really know better.

Just as chemical reactions conserve the number of atoms, nuclear reactions conserve the number of subatomic particles.

Only in a matter/antimatter reaction will the number of massive particles be changed.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219956)

If you could track every atom of the lighter fluid, you'd see that there are as many atoms from the lighter fluid around after the combustion as before. In a nuclear explosion, there are fewer atoms around.

In a theoretical pure fusion explosion, yes. In a fission explosion there are quite a few more atoms. In a fission-boosted fusion bomb, there are almost certainly more atoms overall than you started with because the majority of the energy still comes from the fission of nuclei. In all cases what has decreased is the binding energy between the protons and neutrons in the atoms.

Death start is not a laser! Documentary footage!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219492)

It should be clear that death star was not a laser, but a particle beam weapon,

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particle_beam_weapon

You can see in the following documentary, the beam speed was visible, hence it was not a laser.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpztVZWC_hk

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219504)

I count ten lasers colliding.

http://www.jedisaber.com/SW/wallpaper/death%20star%20firing.jpg [jedisaber.com]

Re:Maybe, maybe not (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219580)

Also, they're not talking about a single laser, they're talking about colliding two laser beams.

The real trick is the death star collides many laser beams, and then accelerates them into the planet in just the right way, causing a miniature black hole to form.

Then they use the lasers to generate matter, fueling expansion of the black hole in the planet.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (5, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219666)

Actually, from what I can see, the blaster, the death star's beam, the lightsaber and even the beam weapons on the clone wars gunship turrets seem to work on something other than "laser." They seem to operate on energized particles or energy that is transformed into a mass-like state. In the case of the death star, it would seem to explain why merging many beams from different angles could actually result in a single beam going in yet another angle.

In any case, you can see blaster bolts travel... they seem to fly at around arrow speed. The fact that they emit light leads people to think "laser" when in reality, you can't see a laser in most cases unless there is interference in the air. (BTW, did you ever notice that headlights seem to be less effective at night after a rainfall? That's because the roads are wet and more reflective... the light gets reflected away from your eyes and so you can't see the light bounce back to your eyes.)

Worse still, the term "laser sword" is actually used in Star Wars which doesn't help things at all. Young Anakin identifies Qui Gon as a Jedi because of his "laser sword." On one hand it is forgiveable because he's a kid, but on the other hand, he's a genius kid and should know better. In any case, lightsabers have a shadow (because of some sloppy film editing) but ostensibly because they are not lasers but an energy/matter transition state where energy is made to behave as matter. (Though only shown in games and cartoons, energy "bridges" are used to create temporary walkways using a technology similar to that used in lightsabers)

It's all fiction anyway, but it helps to try to understand the technology imagined in these fictions. The technologies imagined in SciFi are quite often candidate for implementation in our present or near future.

Re:Maybe, maybe not (2, Interesting)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219866)

Well in Star Trek, they refer to phasers as "colonizing energy"

Here's my take. In SW, is an anti-matter particle beam. The glow you see is antimatter atoms reacting with the interstellar medium, which is less than total vacuum. Hence, you get some reactions (and losses) en route. This is what you see. It is also the only medium to generate that violent a reaction that quickly. A laser would simply heat it. And the problem with lasers if you have to be able to dissipate your inefficiencies. So if you have a 33% efficient laser of 1MW, you have to be able to dissipate 2MW yourself. This means everyone on the Death Star would cook, and it would blow itself up twice as fast as Alderan. (Assuming Alderan's the DS's thermal properties are the same, etc)

You can also explain the beam consolidation as simple vector math, as well as the slow propigation to target.

This does leave a problem of how light sabers work without blowing up the user the second it cuts something made of matter.

We are reaching the limit already? (3, Funny)

ihatejobs (1765190) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219306)

Where are my sharks with laser beams then!?

Re:We are reaching the limit already? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219526)

Didn't you RTFAs? Your sharks exploded. Sorry, no sharks for YOU!

Re:We are reaching the limit already? (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219614)

Where are my sharks with laser beams then!?

FTS:

this process creates an 'avalanche-like electromagnetic cascade' (also known as sparking the vacuum)

Apparently they are off masturbating somewhere. Most likely they are 'sparking the vacuum' in Mom's basement while cruising the innertubes for some free amateur shark porn.

Unforeseen Consequences (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219326)

We all know how avalanche-like electromagnetic cascades wind up.

Death Star style superlasers? Don't bet on it. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219352)

"Death Star style superlasers? Don't bet on it."

Uh, you mean a bunch of laser beams that come out straight, stop for a fraction of a second, turn a few degrees and then join up and all go off in the same direction?

I wasn't exactly holding my breath for that, anyway!!

Re:Death Star style superlasers? Don't bet on it. (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219582)

I always thought the angle of redirection was closer to 45 degrees as they shot out from the Death Star at approximately 45 degrees. :p

Re:Death Star style superlasers? Don't bet on it. (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219640)

They don't "stop for a fraction of a second", they merely reflect off the mirrors... try using the patented CSI "infinite magnification of a digital image" technique next time to zoom in close enough to see the mirrors.

Re:Death Star style superlasers? Don't bet on it. (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219660)

That part I wasn't waiting for, but actually this light-into-matter might be exactly what you want. Light is messy for this, but if you can have your lasers converge and convert into a stream of antimatter particles, things would surely get more interesting.

The one thing this does bugger up big time, though -- I spent HOURS trying to work out how bright headlights would need to be to propel a car backwards. The headlights would be so totally over this limit that you'd end up smashing the headlight covers in the attempt. It would also cover the street with newly-formed matter. Damaging the street is a ticketable offense.

Re:Death Star style superlasers? Don't bet on it. (1)

Tom9729 (1134127) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219662)

Maybe there was some sort of prism floating out where the beams met?

I have a hypothesis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219368)

If Slashdot required a user name to consist of two capitalized words, we would see less about sharks in articles about lasers.

Limits? Ha! (1)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219370)

All this means is we need to be more imaginative with our designs. Limits are made to be broken.

Re:Limits? Ha! (3, Insightful)

VisiX (765225) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219440)

Limits are made to be broken.

The opposite of this is true.

Re:Limits? Ha! (2, Insightful)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219650)

Everything that can be invented has been invented.
The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.
640k ought to be enough for anybody.
Turns out nobody can ever predict the future of technology (except maybe Orwell, but no one wants to admit that).
Just because we can't think of any way to break this "theoretical limit" doesn't mean it can't be broken. I'm sure at one time they said it was impossible to go faster than sound.

Re:Limits? Ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219794)

I think you misunderstand VisiX's point. I'm pretty sure he's saying that limits can't be "made to be broken", because by definition breaking it means that it was never a limit to begin with. The only thing that actually changes is what we believe the limits to be.

Re:Limits? Ha! (1)

javelinco (652113) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219820)

Agreed.

Before 1947, it was believed that the speed of sound represented a physical barrier for aircraft and pilots. As airplanes approach the speed of sound, a shock wave forms and the aircraft encounters sharply increased drag, violent shaking, loss of lift, and loss of control. In attempting to break the barrier, several planes went out of control and crashed, injuring many pilots and killing some. The barrier was eventually shown to be mythical, however, when Chuck Yeager surpassed the speed of sound in the X-1.

http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/S/sound_barrier.html [daviddarling.info]

Re:Limits? Ha! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219876)

Everything you mention is about the limits of technology. We're talking about the limits of physics. No one has reversed entropy, surpassed the Carnot efficiency, or gone faster than light. If this is indeed a theoretical limit, then it's a lot less likely to be broken than something like sound barrier, which was always understood by physicists to be a purely technological difficulty.

Re:Limits? Ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219782)

No limits are made to be not broken?

Avalanche-like Cascade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219384)

If Half-Life taught me anything, it's that cascades can result in terrible and unforeseen consequences D:

matter from light? (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219418)

Sorry, this is new to me. What kind of matter is created? Full atoms? Just neutrons or protons? Or nothing more than subatomic bits?

Re:matter from light? (3, Informative)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219486)

Well gee, if only there were a link to an article about it.

In a report published this month by the journal Physical Review Letters, 20 physicists from four research institutions disclosed that they had created two tiny specks of matter -- an electron and its antimatter counterpart, a positron -- by colliding two ultrapowerful beams of radiation.

As for this being new...

The possibility of doing something like this was suggested in 1934 by two American physicists, Dr. Gregory Breit and Dr. John A. Wheeler.

Re:matter from light? Transporter? (2, Interesting)

KDN (3283) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219856)

So we are approaching the intensity at which light turns into matter. One step (of many) to building a transporter?

Re:matter from light? (1)

purpledinoz (573045) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219502)

TFA says an electron-positron pair is created. I wonder if that means we're closer to a star trek like replicator.

Re:matter from light? (5, Informative)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219538)

Energy converts to matter, and matter to energy, all the time. Check out Feynman diagrams [wikipedia.org] for many examples. Particle colliders are machines built for the purpose of converting energy into matter. When particles collide, some of their energy converts to various forms of matter.

Re:matter from light? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219574)

Electron-positron pairs. Seems to me that this effect could be used to create a high-energy, LASER pumped, near light-speed particle beam, with the added possibility of electron-positron annihilations at the point of impact.

Re:matter from light? (1)

DarkKnightRadick (268025) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219612)

From The Fine Article [physicscentral.com]:

Creating light from matter is rather ordinary in terms of physics, as can be seen in nuclear explosions. But the SLAC experiment was the first to produce the opposite, and while the effect had been expected for some 50 years, the equipment hadn't existed to test it experimentally. It is known amongst physicists as creating "spark in a vacuum." When the electromagnetic field has enough energy, light becomes matter as a positron-electron pair is produced.

Re:matter from light? (1)

Sir_Sri (199544) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219638)

An atom is a collection of matter, which would be sort of a second step. Light is just energy, typically we are concerned with 'visible' light (or something close thereto) with Lasers and use the term Maser for microwaves for example, but the principles are the same. e=(gamma) m*c^2 and all that. Enough energy and you can make whatever sorts of matter you want. Normally with big colliders we are interested in producing some matter no one has seen before, so the more mondane making regular protons, electrons or the like doesn't get much attention. Also there's not a great deal of commercial application of producing stuff that's easier to just dig holes in the ground for, so what older accelerators *can* do doesn't get a lot of attention. Don't get me wrong, there are applications for smaller accelerators, just not for making relatively boring matter.

Hold everything (3, Funny)

jewishbaconzombies (1861376) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219456)

Can convert light into matter?

Sooooo PewPewPew, eventually becomes SplatSplatSplat?

That's an interesting kind of awesome right there.

Re:Hold everything (1)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219740)

On the subject of light into matter, let me contribute a useless computation:

(Annual energy consumption of Earth population) / (Speed of light)^2 / (Mass of 1967 Volkwagen Beetle) = 6.3.

That's more than I expected...

Re:Hold everything (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219764)

Ow! I just got hit with an electron! Ow! A positron! Mommmmmm! Make him stop! He's throwing electrons at me!

I suspect electrons and positrons don't exactly make audible "splat" noises when they hit something... But then, explosions in space are actually silent, and big yellow flames don't normally occur in a vacuum either.

Most Efficient Laser? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219488)

Is there a theoretical upper bound to the maximum efficiency of converting energy into coherent light (lasing), other than the obvious "nearly 100%"?

What is the most energy efficient laser in production today, and how close to the theoretical max will lasers get within the next 5-10 years?

I_live_in_my_parents_basement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219508)

Tell that to the guy that keeps Void Ray rushing me.

Re:I_live_in_my_parents_basement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219696)

Hydras with range, Stalkers with blink, or Marines with stim, and move under the void rays before attacking. If it's a really early rush you may need two Queens or a bunker (Stalkers will be fine).

This has actually been known for a while... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219514)

Waveform theory and the hard limit of the speed of light dictate a maximum power yield for laser output using the standard model.

Of course, the wave/particle duality of photons suggest that quantum mechanics may provide a means of upping this yield by observing enough quantum states in one stream of photons to "push" them into the other, theoretically approaching double the power (over 9000) of the initial laser. In practice this is unlikely due to collision unless the protons could be nudged back into a wave state as they reemerge in the initial laser.

As they say, when one door closes another one opens.

We could still have the Death Star (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219560)

Everybody knows 'lasers' in Star Wars are actually superheated gas. The gas product is what they mine on Cloud City.

Matter creator (4, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219584)

Henchman: "Professor, I've increased the laser's power to a new incredible limit, and something remarkable has happened. It is creating new matter! I can tune the beam to create any matter in any configuration we need!"
Professor: "Darn. We needed a big laser. Oh well, throw it all out, that was a dead end."

once again (0, Offtopic)

hyperion2010 (1587241) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219594)

I will wait patiently until someone realizes that all they have to do to get around this is modulate the phase of the laser. They might even call it a phased laser, or phaser if you like abbreviations.

Interesting Physics (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219606)

Isn't the fact the electron/positron pairs can be created in a vacuum by a strong enough electromagnetic field pretty interesting Physics in and of itself? What goes around comes around -- every day we get closer to resurrecting the theory of the luminiferous aether... (Yeah, I know... energy in a vacuum is not exactly the same thing.)

Is this going to be the same story as hard drives? (1)

charles xavier (1861908) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219620)

Every five or so years, someone comes forward and says that hard drives are nearing their physical limit. And then someone else makes a big breakthrough and continues the growth. Are we going to have to go through the same roller coaster ride with lasers too?

I guess I'll knock another project off my list (1)

Tangential (266113) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219690)

All right, consider "Create planet busting laser" to be scratched off my ToDo list. Now I've got to figure out what to do with that corner of my basement.

We already have the solution to this. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33219710)

It is called nanoscale lasers, and it works very well.
Just tape some of those beauties together in a circle-ish shape, it will get much better results in the same space as a regular laser will, and probably with less power required due to the more efficient process of forming it.

Of course, now we just need to wait until nanotech PRETTY-MUCH-EVERYTHING gets here since the only places it really exists is in CPUs, which i wouldn't even class as nanotech since it just involves etching away most of the time.
Who knows, maybe someone will make an awesome 3D printer that works at the nanoscale ranges that can be built for less than $1000.
Replicators, here we come... in 20 years... maybe.

Where is Gordon Moore? (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219720)

We need him to proclaim: "The intensity of lasers will double every two years" and everything will be fine.

well there's frequency, amplitude, and width (1)

happyjack27 (1219574) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219772)

right? what does one mean by "intensity"? is that simply amplitude? simply frequency? their product? if it's one or the other you can always increase the other. if it's both, then i guess you can just use a wider beam, but that means overall energy transfer rate per unit surface area is limited. well, coherent transfer, at least. anything beyond a certain threshold would diminish (exponentially) with distance. reminds me of the speed of light being constant or the "channel capacity" in information theory.

Fascinating (2, Insightful)

wikdwarlock (570969) | more than 3 years ago | (#33219804)

Anything that requires 47 billion eV electrons and a 1 trillion watt laser has to be freaking amazing to be a part of.

Yay Science!
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