## EU Scientists Working On Laser To Rip a Hole In Spacetime 575

astroengine writes

*"Those pesky physicists are at it again; they want to build a laser so powerful that it will literally rip spacetime apart. Why? To prove the existence of virtual particles in the quantum vacuum, potentially unravel extra dimensions and possibly find the root of dark matter. The $1.6 billion Extreme Light Infrastructure Ultra-High Field Facility (known as ELI) will be built somewhere in Europe by the end of the decade and physicists are hoping the ten high-powered lasers — delivering 200 petawatts of power at a target for less than a trillionth of a second — will turn up some surprises about the very fabric of the Universe."*
## Re:Ok. That's one research field going too fast. (Score:5, Informative)

## Re:Ok. That's one research field going too fast. (Score:5, Informative)

someone accidentally caused a nuclear fission without taking proper precautions at a lab

That happened, at least twice. See the WIkipedia entries for Harry Daghlian, Jr [wikimedia.org] and Louis Slotin [wikimedia.org].

## Re:But where do we get the power? (Score:5, Informative)

I think the idea is that you relatively slowly charge up some kind of energy bank, eg ultracapacitors or something, using relatively low power. And then you discharge the bank very very fast - so you get 200 petawatts output, for a trillionth of a second, and then the energy banks are drained and need to be recharged.

It's possible that the energy capacitance is actually an inherent part of the laser physics rather than being stored electrically. I'm not really sure what the details are.

But, 200 PW for one trillionth of a second is actually only 200 kJ total energy if I've done the math correctly - ie about 9% of the dietary energy content of a Big Mac. This would not actually take very long for the world's total electrical generation capacity to deliver. :)

## Re:but but but virtual particles... (Score:5, Informative)

The electric field started out as a model of how charges interact, then he noticed that waves in the electromagnetic field would produce energy transfer at a speed that was the same as that of light.

Einstein's theory of relativity was just a model of how gravity works, a gravitational field was just a mathematical tool for predicting the motions of objects, and black holes were mathematical curiosities that probably did not exist in reality. Today we have observed binary star systems gradually changing their orbits as they lose energy due to gravity waves. Frame dragging of space itself surrounding the earth has been empirically measured in satellites, and several black holes have been found by astronomers.

Quantum mechanical wave functions were models for how elementary particles work, and the Dirac equation predicted negative energy solutions, suggesting each particle had a double of opposite charge. A few years latter the positron was discovered.

Circulation in fluid dynamics is a mathematical quantity used in predicting the flow of fluids. As it happens it cannot simply disappear without viscosity, leading to the concept of vortex tubes, the most famous example of which is a tornado.

Perhaps the greatest prejudice to new ideas is however found in mathematics. Whenever new numbers have been discovered, how have we named them? Negative, irrational , imaginary ... As it happens complex numbers are inherent to the laws of quantum mechanics. You would have a very hard time trying to explain why matter sticks together without them.

## Re:Mandatory comment. (Score:5, Informative)

## Re:Results how? (Score:5, Informative)

Actually, far more energetic phenomena-- gamma ray bursts-- have been studied to observe the effects their travels through the fabric of space-time on the way to Earth have had, and the results have been pretty mundane. Even for ridiculously high-energy gamma ray photons, the fabric of the universe behaves as being essentially smooth and respectful of general relativity. Maybe we'll see something a bit wilder given a chance to take a closer look, but to describe "pushing some particles apart so we can see them" as "tear apart the vacuum of space" is a bit of an exaggeration.

## Re:Ok. That's one research field going too fast. (Score:4, Informative)

Noone is ripping anything. It's just a sensationalist article. Energy concentrations far bigger than this happen in the Universe.