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

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong? dept.
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."
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EU Scientists Working On Laser To Rip a Hole In Spacetime

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  • by Dartz-IRL (1640117) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:53PM (#37943258)

    Commencing Primary Ignition....

    Standby...

    Standby...

  • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:53PM (#37943262)

    Alright folks, listen up: This is not an appropriate time for a shark joke. This is very clearly an opportunity for an Alan Parsens or Preperation H reference.

    Anybody caught making a Frickin' Sharks joke will be permanently labeled a virgin.

  • Results how? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If spacetime is ripped apart, where and when will any observations of any phenomena they are studying occur?

    • Re:Results how? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mrxak (727974) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:56PM (#37943298)

      You raise an interesting point. How exactly do we detect the absence of spacetime? Presumably if it's ripped apart, either there will be gaps, or somehow we'll make more of it.

      • by dccase (56453)

        Don't panic.
        Eddy's in the spacetime continuum.
        He'll give us The Answer.

      • You raise an interesting point. How exactly do we detect the absence of spacetime? Presumably if it's ripped apart, either there will be gaps, or somehow we'll make more of it.

        Oh come on, we know the answer to this. Hellish beings from another Universe will come charging through the gap causing explosions, terror and Micheal Bay movies.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Don't be ridiculous. Evil twins of local people will come through the tear in space-time, except for one which is actually a good twin (since its double in this universe is evil), and will cause all kinds of pandemonium. When everyone finally figures out how to banish these evil doubles back to their mirror universe, they'll try to send the one evil guy from this universe back with them, but he'll fool everyone so that they send the good one instead.

        • "Hellish beings from another Universe will come charging through the gap "

          And they'll all be named John.

        • by Baloroth (2370816)

          explosions, terror and Micheal Bay movies.

          No need to repeat yourself.

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

      by reverseengineer (580922) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @11:22PM (#37943930)
      It wouldn't be so much tearing a hole in the fabric of space as making a ripple. The laser's electric field would make a wake in the sea of transient vacuum particles that prevents their instantaneous annihilation, and hopefully lets some exotic particles exist for long enough to be detected. Despite the idea that this "quantum foam" of seething virtual particles would be the fabric of space-time, the answers to where and when phenomena would be detected are most likely "in detectors just outside the laser's path" and "femtoseconds after the laser is fired" and not perhaps "in another universe" or "85 million years in the past." This is not a FOX show, after all.

      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:Results how? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Scarletdown (886459) on Friday November 04, 2011 @02:02AM (#37944706) Journal

        I'm just hoping that the results of this experiment will provide once and for all, a definitive answer to the ages old question of:

        If three astronauts are flying over the Gobi Desert in a canoe, and they crash land, how many pancakes does it take to shingle a doghouse?"

        I've only been able to narrow it down to two possible answers:

        Three, because ice cream has no bones.

        or

        Nine, because watermelons can't use night vision goggles.

        And even then, I am only about 70% sure the answer is one of those. This experiment with the great big lasers could reveal a completely different answer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:56PM (#37943284)

    In the event of an alien invasion, can we point it upwards?

    • by stms (1132653)

      Wrong, the most important question is can we mount the freaking laser onto a sharks head?

  • The Death Star (Score:3, Interesting)

    by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:56PM (#37943286) Homepage Journal

    The combined power of 10 separate lasers would be focused down to a very small volume, creating conditions more extreme than in the center of our sun.

    So they'll essentiallly be turning the Earth into the Death Star
    And we feel good about letting Europeans man the switch?
    Will they be wearing dark suits with funky helmets?

    • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:15PM (#37943466)

      ...turning the Earth into the Death Star ...dark suits with funky helmets

      Aaaagh! I just had a Dick Cheney flashback!

    • And we feel good about letting Europeans man the switch?

      See the thing is, after having had our continent torn asunder by two world wars, a couple of genocides, decades of Soviet occupation of the eastern block, followed by being dragged into a hornet nest in Iraq following faulty US intelligence, most people over here are so fed up with the whole war thing that we only agreed to help the Libyans deal with Gaddafi after he started using the air-force to bomb innocent protesters.

      However, if you prefer I guess

    • "I never thought I'd see a resonance cascade, let alone create one."
        - Dr Rosenberg, head of ELI research, February 2015

    • F-that. I want a lightsaber. This will be money well-spent.

    • by rtb61 (674572)

      Consider how much energy there is trapped in normal atoms just waiting for a trigger to release it, somehow a high short term concentration of photons doesn't seem all that much to worry about. More interesting might be to build up a really, really high concentration of electrons in a super conducting toroid, especially as that build up would produce measurable affects at a distance. A solid electron field.

  • Extreme "light"... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lvxferre (2470098)
    They need to call it "light" because politicians are stupid enough to ban if they call it "radiation" - although a powerful enough laser won't be visible light, but UV radiation...
    • by sorak (246725)

      They need to call it "light" because politicians are stupid enough to ban if they call it "radiation" - although a powerful enough laser won't be visible light, but UV radiation...

      I can see how that conversation would go down:

      Scientist: We're going to rip a hole in the space-time continuum using radiation
      Politician: Wold on!
      Scientist: Wait, did I say radiation? I meant "light". And oil! A mixture of light, oil, and freedom!
      Politician: Now that's what I like to hear!

  • by bmo (77928) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:57PM (#37943304)

    ... we get invaded by the Strogg?

    --
    BMO

  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @09:59PM (#37943320)

    Another terrible headline, but the article is partly to blame. This isn't about ripping a hole in space time, it's just about putting energy in the vacuum so a bunch of virtual particles become real particles.

    P.S. THE DEVICE WILL GO ONLINE IN 2012 AND END THE WORLD!!! AREN'T I CLEVER? PULL MY FINGER!!

  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:00PM (#37943326)

    ... and my car keys fall through the hole.

    Damn! I hate it when that happens.

  • I aspire to make a toaster that cuts a hole in space-time... Can I be on Slashdot, too?? PLEEEEZE Mr. Kotter?

    Hey, beats a shark joke. Let's mine 70s TV for a change.

  • by nategri (1255306) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:06PM (#37943384)
    ... until the universe segfaults.
    • by JoshuaZ (1134087)
      The simulation is pretty robust. When one part gets an error it just deletes that section of the simulation and resets it. It uses a lazy evaluation similar to Haskell so it can get away with this without turning off the whole simulation.
  • As a Canadian, I wish our government would partner with the US to fund super awesome science mega-projects like this. Seriously guys, would it be so hard to scrap one aircraft carrier in exchange for something useful?

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      Why doesn't your government instead partner with the Europeans, instead of pointlessly hoping for the Americans to do something useful instead of only things that increase corporate profits? Heck, you'd make a lot more progress partnering with the Chinese than with the US.

      • Because Europe is far away which means we won't get many jobs (shipping costs) out of joint ventures with Europe, no jobs means no votes means no money. If that sounds retarded, it's because it is. With the US we can usually get some kind of make work project to keep the politicians happy.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Shipping costs aren't that much, depending on what you're shipping and how much. If you divide up the project and make the Canadians responsible for some significant-sized part, that can be shipped when complete.

          Think about it: we North Americans buy stuff from the Europeans all the time: ships, marine diesel engines, large industrial equipment, cars, etc. The fact that they're in Europe doesn't make that much of a difference. China's far away too, but that doesn't keep us from buying stuff from them, ev

  • Did I miss something, but why is Europe getting all the cool new science toys? :-(

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:33PM (#37943648)

    will turn up some surprises about the very fabric of the Universe

    I'm guessing...plaid and flannel.

  • Fuhck yeah! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chicago_scott (458445) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:40PM (#37943698) Journal

    $1.6 billion is a bargain to have space and time ripped up. The money won't be missed anyway.

    • by TeknoHog (164938)
      If the space and time of Greece are ripped up, it is obviously a good investment in the EU economy...
  • by afabbro (33948) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:56PM (#37943802) Homepage
    Let's rip up space and see what's underneath. What could go wrong?
  • Or read From a Buick 8? Or The Langoliers?

    I really don't want to rip a hole in space-time.

  • Professor Farnsworth: We tore the universe a new space-hole, alright. But it's clenching shut fast!

  • Lets see a petawatt is 1 x 10^15.. Our star (sol) has a surface power of +/- 4 x 10^25 and it hasn't rent space time asunder yet that I know of, but hell I could be wrong. 200 PW is only a little more then the power of the sun that hits the earth. The sun runs at its power level continuously and they think they can do that in a couple of fempto seconds? I think not.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Of course there are many events in the Universe far more powerful than this, and good old spacetime survived them all. The article states some heavy bullshit.

  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Friday November 04, 2011 @04:07AM (#37945124)
    The level of comment on the article is puerile (look it up, most of you don't know what it means).

    First the shear amount of dumb laser jokes is astounding. It seems very few people bothered to read any of the other posts or bothered to consider that maybe someone else on Shashdot had ever seen Austin Powers. Or Star Trek. Or your favorite SF series here. Real herd behavior in action.

    Next, the number of people whining about 200 PETAWATTS!!!!!! was really sad. Are the posters hear actually that ignorant about the concept of instantaneous power values and pulsed power systems? I am surprised by this level of technical ignorance.

    Also, does anyone seriously think that a project of this size would be approved without an air tight argument that the experiment will operate in a domain where there are likely to be measurable results? Is it even vaguely possible that physicists picked "200 petawatts of power at a target for less than a trillionth of a second " by guessing? They have a well reasoned case to do the experiment, and part of this is a way to measure the results. But many of the post deride the practicality of the experiment, and even make specific statements that it won't work and that key measurement components are nonexistent. All based around a badly written publicity piece and their extensive personal knowledge of ultra high powered lasers and the mathematics of virtual particle production in the ground state of the space-time vacuum.

    The worst and most puzzling part is the shear amount of hostility shown towards science. Assuming that it pork spending, saying it useless, that it can't show anything interesting, that the resources would be better spent somewhere else. All without a shred of logic or reference to any external source. This is the kind of anti-intellectual crap I expect from Fox News, not Slashdot readers. All I see here is a few true nerds surrounded by a bunch of fakes who either express their ignorance directly or try and hide it by making a ridiculous hostile comments.

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