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Table-top Particle Accelerator Created

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the what-could-go-wrong dept.

Science 55

holy_calamity writes "French physicists have built a desktop particle accelerator. It uses a pair of laser beams to precisely control the acceleration of electrons within a plasma. It has the power of a device that usually takes up a whole room and could lead to new medical treatments. They don't mention the potential for experiments like 'what happens if I put my lunch in front of a 300 megaelectronvolt beam?'"

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55 comments

Been around for years (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147160)

Re:Been around for years (3, Insightful)

holy_calamity (872269) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147328)

No it hasn't. That's why the French team's work has appeared in the top journal Nature this week. The editor has written a freely accessible summary [nature.com] with links to the research article. The first paragraph [nature.com] of that is freely available.

Re:Been around for years (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17147366)

Sure, it's been around for ages. The article even mentions explicitely that this is a decade-old idea. It also says that it has been very difficult to fine-tune this idea. This is what these guys did.

I suggest that you update the Wikipedia article about plasma acceleration...

Re:Been around for years (3, Funny)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147542)

Really. These guys [wikipedia.org] used to strap them on like backpacks when they went to work everyday.

Re:Been around for years (3, Funny)

inviolet (797804) | more than 7 years ago | (#17148004)

"You know, it just occurred to me, we've never had a completely successful test of this equipment."
"I blame myself."
"So do I."
"Well, no sense worrying about it now. Switch me on."

Re:Been around for years (1)

krakelohm (830589) | more than 7 years ago | (#17148022)

[while taking down Slimer in hotel] "Maybe now you'll never slime a guy with a positron collider!"

They're not stupid (1)

darkonc (47285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147170)

'what happens if I put my lunch in front of a 300 megaelectronvolt beam?'"
If they did that, they'd get their site slashdotted.

Oh, nevermind....

Re:They're not stupid (1)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147760)

> what happens if I put my lunch in front of a 300 megaelectronvolt beam?

Isn't that about the same a front beam laser?

Re:They're not stupid (2, Informative)

darkonc (47285) | more than 7 years ago | (#17148760)

A 300MEV beam signifies the energy of individual particles. Such a beam might have an very low intensity, or could be strong enough to be used as a weapon (that's a function of both wattage and diameter). A particle beam can cause either chemical or atomic changes in your lunch (i.e. it could conceivably make it radioactive).

A laser beam is only going to cook/burn your lunch.

Isn't that about the same a front beam laser?

Re:They're not stupid (1)

cuantar (897695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17148980)

Nope. Lasers are just monochromatic, polarized light, meaning they're beams of photons with nearly the same energy that are all travelling in the same direction. 300MeV is actually really high for a laser; after a little algebra, the wavelength of a laser with that energy is 4.13e-6 nanometers. Most lasers that I know of are visible light or infrared, but light with a wavelength on the order of 10^-6 nm (10^-15 m) is high on the gamma side of the spectrum.

If you were to put a sandwich into a 300MeV proton beam (for example), what you'd end up with would depend on the intensity of the beam. Low intensity gives you a radioactive sandwich, and high intensity gives you a hole in a radioactive sandwich. I imagine similar things would happen with a 300MeV laser, but you wouldn't even need a laser if you could shoot 300MeV photons at things :) Disclaimer: I am a physicist-in-training, so IANAP (yet).

Re:They're not stupid (3, Interesting)

Sangui5 (12317) | more than 7 years ago | (#17149722)

Don't forget all of the other stuff you get from spalling, like high energy X-rays. Actually, at 300MeV, I'd wager on getting a fairly decent gamma ray beam. Without a purpose built collimator, I'd guess that there'd be a good amount of "spray" all over the place. So you'd probably get a hole in a radioactive sandwich, plus a good dose of radiation just for standing nearby. Yes, a healthy dose life-giving radiation [nukees.com] .

Remember, the Therac-25 system was quite lethal when it malfunctioned, and it "only" used a 25 MeV beam. 300MeV is a LOT of punch per particle, and if the intensity is high enough all sorts of nasty things will happen.

Re:They're not stupid (1)

Iron Condor (964856) | more than 7 years ago | (#17157438)

Actually, at 300MeV, I'd wager on getting a fairly decent gamma ray beam.

You lost me there -- by what process? For a z=1 particle at 300MeV/n kinetic energy, the stopping power [sgeier.net] of dry air is about ~3.1 MeV/(g/cm^2) - so that's pretty much transparent. You don't get much energy loss until you hit someone or something. (For Lung tissue I get ~3.5MeV/(g/cm^2), so taking human density to be about ~1, you'd deposit almost half the energy of the particle during penetration of a body (say 30 cm thick))

Eat Banana (2, Informative)

neurostar (578917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147190)

'what happens if I put my lunch in front of a 300 megaelectronvolt beam?'

Nothing you can see, because that's ~ 4e-11 J.

Re:Eat Banana (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17148728)

Not quite, you forgot the flux. 300MeV is the energy per electron so you meant ~4e-11 J/electron. I did not RTFA, but I'm guessing the accelerator produced more than one electron. Also, don't forget, luminosity is also an important way to factor the problem --- electrons/area/sec. That being said, I'd be more concerned about the safety of the lasers they must be using to pump the system.

Not quite (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17148740)

300 MeV may be 4e-11 J, but that's not the relevant figure. 300 MeV refers to the energy of a single electron in the beam. The beam itself, however, contains many, many electrons, not to mention the energy in the lasers and plasma producing the beam.

SECOND Table-top Particle Accelerator Created! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17147362)

These guys never heard of air hockey?

Time to market? (4, Funny)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147410)

I can see it now...

Boss: "What is that on your desk?"
Me: "A particle accelerator."
Boss: "OK, next question... Why?"
Me: "Because I can."

Re:Time to market? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#17148762)

Boss: "What is that on your desk?"
Me: "A particle accelerator."
Boss: "OK, next question... Why?"
Me: "Because I can."
Guy in the next cubicle: Can it run Linux?

Re:Time to market? (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#17149020)

lol, actually my boss and I are the only two here that don't really mind Unix operating systems that much, though I'd much rather used BSD than Linux...

hmmm, can it run NetBSD?

Ze accelerateurs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17147414)

...zey are getting smaller and fasterrrr! Soon we shall not be able to escape zem! START RUNNING NOWWW!

Been done before... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147434)

They don't mention the potential for experiments like 'what happens if I put my lunch in front of a 300 megaelectronvolt beam?

Some egghead before or during World War II had an egg in his pocket when working around microwave beams when the egg decided to go pop. The device is called a microwave oven and sits on the kitchen counter. I got mine for free when I signed for a one-year lease on my apartment. :P

Chocolate bar (2, Informative)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17148248)

http://cultureofchemistry.blogspot.com/2005/11/rad ar-and-chocolate-bar.html [blogspot.com]

And don't use the term 'egghead'. It's origin is Nazi brown-shirts referring to how the skulls of intellectuals shatter when they hit the ground. (Or something equally violent.) We have enough anti-intellectualism in this country already.

Re:egghead (1)

FunkyRat (36011) | more than 7 years ago | (#17148546)

That's not true. The term dates back to the first decade of the 20th C. as slang for "bald". Chicago newspapermen picked up on the word and started using it to mean someone with intellectual pretensions and the term gained widespread popularization in 1952 when New York Herald Tribune columnist Stewart Alsop used it to refer to the presidential campaign of Adlai Stevenson.

Re:Chocolate bar (0, Troll)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#17149608)

"It's origin is Nazi brown-shirts referring to how the skulls of intellectuals shatter when they hit the ground. "

And your point?

Chocolate bar (0, Offtopic)

coyote-san (38515) | more than 7 years ago | (#17148398)

http://cultureofchemistry.blogspot.com/2005/11/rad ar-and-chocolate-bar.html [blogspot.com]

BTW, don't use the term 'egghead'. That anti-intellectual term comes from Nazi brownshirts referring to how easily intellectual's heads shattered, or something equally violent. We have enough anti-intellectualism in this country already. Just look at those damn Geico commercials.

(Seriously. The 'modern' humans are assholes who can mock or outshout the cavemen but that's all... and don't feel any shame about it. The 'cavemen' are the ones who clearly articulate their opinion and accomplishments.)

Re:Chocolate bar (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17148552)

Maybe you need to check your facts regarding egghead [etymonline.com] since it appears to be American slang. Not unless you were trying to indirectly suggest I'm a Nazi sympathizer. There's enough anti-intellectuals (or people who don't know there facts) in this country.

It could be a new game (1)

Lex-Man82 (994679) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147514)

Press the button to find a new particle. Bonus points if you find a Graviton.

Re:It could be a new game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17149828)

* Press
Ding! "You have found...photon."

* Press
Ding! "You have found...photon."

* Pick up and shake

* Press
Ding! "You have found...photon."

Stupid thing must be broken. My cousin found axions in his particle accelerator.

(Small particle accelerator means low energy collisions. Don't expect to find anything terribly spectacular in this guy)

Ghostbusters (1)

darkshadow (102598) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147756)

An unlicensed nuclear accelerator?

Re:Ghostbusters (1)

Jorelli (1009279) | more than 7 years ago | (#17149340)

fortunately it's NOT a proton pack. i say fortunately since the proton pack's inventor is quoted as saying "the proton pack is not a toy" whereas this device is clearly intended for entertainment purposes.

cooking at CERN (2, Funny)

joejor (578266) | more than 7 years ago | (#17147952)

Perhaps they can follow up on high energy culinary research, as previously documented in
Zryd A., Liechti T., Wagnière J.D. (1995). The laser cheese raclette, Annals of Improbable Research, 1, 3, 12-15.

Does it work on little brothers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17148388)

Hey mom, watch me accelerate Timmy to 0.9c!

accelerator? (1)

deadstatue (1004528) | more than 7 years ago | (#17148548)

isnt this just a wakefield accelerator?isnt that old news?unless im wrong ive read about this bout a year ago in sci.am.

What is the mass of this "Tabletop Particle" (1)

Anomalyst (742352) | more than 7 years ago | (#17150518)

IANAQM (Quantum Mechanic) but I do not recall the discovery announcement for this hadron(?).

I accelerate particles every morning... (1)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 7 years ago | (#17151144)

I accelerate particles every morning when I fire one out...

Most of us have owned one (1)

dlleigh (313922) | more than 7 years ago | (#17151994)

LCDs are making them obsolete, but CRTs (which we all know and loved) work by accelerating electrons to a few keV. The electrons are moving at a not insignificant hunk of the speed of light and produce X-rays as they slam into the front of the tube.

Next time you're sitting in front of one, remember that there's an unlicensed particle accelerator a couple of feet from your brain.

IT BURNS!!!!!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17152888)

Seriously, I had a malfunctioning CRT once.

My eyes and face felt like they were getting pin-pricked to death.

I gave it to charity "for parts."

I magic-markered a warning label on the screen and case first.

When can I get one of these... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17159408)

so that I can create tiny quantum black holes that would explode into self contained bubble universes?
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