Read More: Mysterious Universe
When someone says they plan to “break the vacuum,” this probably means they’re a parent about to attempt to clean a room normally occupied by a teenager … unless they’re a laser physicist. Then it means they’re getting ready to use a laser to rip a hole in empty space and pull out the matter/antimatter combo of electrons and positrons. Isn’t ripping holes in space the job of the Large Hadron Collider? Regardless of who is doing the ripping, is this a good idea? As with many sci-fi-to-real-life stories these days (see “Cloning monkeys”), this news comes out of China, where physicist Ruxin Li is leading a team at the Shanghai Superintense Ultrafast Laser Facility (is “superintense ultrafast” redundant or scary or both?) in developing a laser that will create the world’s most powerful light pulses. How powerful? The team has already built a record-breaking laser that distills light into pulses measuring 5.3 million billion watts or petawatts. They’re nearing completion of a 10 petawatt laser that is 1,000 times more powerful than the world’s electrical grids … combined. And they’re just five years away from a machine with the doomsday-ish name of the Station of Extreme Light that will be capable of pulses reaching 100 petawatts. What do they plan to point the Station of Extreme Light at? As usual, the researchers have a noble cause (also called a ‘cover story’) and a sinister one. The ‘good’ purpose of building a cylinder of sapphire coated with titanium capable of shooting a 100 petawatt laser that can create temperatures never seen on Earth is to help develop new medicines.