It's more or less impossible for us puny humans to duplicate the raw epic power of a lightning bolt. They can travel at 140,000 mph (or about Mach 184 if you're counting), heat the surrounding air to three times the temperature of the surface of the sun, and transmit enough energy to toast approximately 100,000 slices of bread. To study a lightning bolt, you first have to capture it, and it turns out that the best way to do that is to fire rockets at thunderstorms. Yeah, it's probably best not to try this at home.
Well, this sucks. Out of the $664.5 billion 2012 defense budget, the Senate Armed Services Committee couldn't find enough money (or reasons) to continue funding the Navy's Free Electron Laser or ship-mounted railgun. I guess the "free" part didn't fool them.
Think you're a Star Trek fan? In 1996, Barbara "The Commander" Adams shocked a lot of people by showing up for jury duty in a full Next Generation uniform, complete with Tricorder and possibly a phaser (she would have to check the sidearm at the door). She was very boldly trying to live in Gene Roddenberry's vision of the 23rd and 24th centuries. The world of 2011 may not seem much closer to the world of Trek than 1996, but it's actually possible for the average person to enjoy some of the technology and indeed even the environment of Star Trek in every day life. While some of the future technology, like transporters, tractor beams and cloaking devices are still in the laboratory, below is a list of items available to the consumer to either buy or build.
The insignia on the side of Russia's Beriev A-60 shows a lightning bolt blasting what looks a lot like the Hubble Space Telescope. That's made more suspicious by the plane's megawatt laser turret hidden in the back that only points upward. Hubble doesn't seem like it would be much of a threat to anyone, but you do the math.
Wanna shoot lasers out of your eyeballs? We're getting close: scientists have finally done something useful for a change and stuck some glowing jellyfish genes into human cells and created living green biolasers.
We all know that the addition of lasers automatically makes anything look 100% more awesome, but scientists have figured out how to use them make musical instruments sound better too.
Researchers have set a new record for data transfer speeds using a single laser, shooting some data around at an absolutely insane 26 terabits per second.
It's the anniversary of the laser, that amazing little bit of technology that can burn your eyes out while enabling everything from CDs to LIDAR. The very first laser was invented by a physicist named Theodore Maiman, who used a synthetic ruby crystal to produce pulsed red laser light 51 years ago today. We've come a long and dangerous way since then, and in the gallery below, check out some of the many ways that beams of coherent light can be used to do amazing things.
The European Commission has approved the construction of three gigantic new research lasers, with the option for a fourth that would, for an instant, be several hundred times more powerful than the entirety of the power generated by our civilization. The hope is that this will be enough energy to actually conjure virtual particles out of nothingness.
Spark plugs have been around for a long time — 150 years or so. But vehicles may soon upgrade to a more modern tech for their engine-starting needs: lasers.