Lasers are awesome. They are everywhere in sci-fi, from lightsabers (geeks will contest that they are really made of plasma, but screw you guys) to… other things with lasers. Do people still use CD players? Those. Oh, and they are used in the military to target people and to burn through things. But the point is, they come in a variety of sizes, ranging from the really small to the pretty big.
Your normal, everyday laser pointer is usually a less than 5mW in power, which is really, really small. Yet, they can still be bright. According to Wikipedia, on a moonless night, a 5mW green laser pointer can be seen in the air, which is usually done to point out stars to wannabe astronomers.
But, once you want to get more and more powerful lasers you need stronger and stronger sources of energy, meaning larger and larger sizes are needed to produce the laser desired. So that means, for military sized, plane-melting lasers, it may be the size of a trailer.
The Huge Version:
Some people decided that it would be a good idea to make the world’s largest laser, though. The above image is a small portion of the device.
But what does such a gigantic laser do? It was designed to “in hopes of recreating astronomical phenomena like supernovae in miniature”. That, already, should let you know that these scientists aren’t foolin’ around.
Compared to your average laser, this thing is freakishly powerful. Compared to the world’s energy output, this thing is freakishly powerful. The laser maxes out at 1,000,000,000,000,000 watts of energy (yes, fifteen zeroes). Not only is that 200,000,000,000,000,000 more powerful than your normal, small laser, for a trillionth of a second, this laser is more powerful than all of the world’s power plants combined. That would leave a nice little burn.
A particle accelerator is essentially a long tube, wrapped up in a circle or just laid out in a straight line, through which the centers of atoms are flung through at really high speeds and then collided with other things to see what comes out. It’s essentially throwing computers at a brick wall to see what’s inside a computer. Pretty barbaric.
There really are no “normal sized” particle accelerators in the world. There are the really old particle accelerators which could fit on your desk, and then there are the brand new ones, which are usually pretty large.
The size directly affects the speed at which particles are flung through the tube. The longer the tube, the further particles can accelerate, and thus more energy is released on impact. So, obviously, scientists are going to try to make the biggest freakin’ particle accelerator they can… because, shoot, who doesn’t want to know what’s inside a quark?
The Huge Version:
That, up there, is a city. And the circle you see surrounding it isn’t some sort of target. It’s an underground particle accelerator. The world’s largest.
It weighs in at a whopping sixteen and a half miles long, making it humanity’s largest creation ever.
It can accelerate particles to a point so fast that, in ten hours, the particles could go around the ring four hundred million times.
- - Centrifuge: http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/Labs/Genetics/DNA_Isolation/DNA_Isolation_jpg/05_centrifuge_P2060005.jpg http://www.uwishunu.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/centrifuge-inside.jpg
- - Supercomputer: http://www.paperlift.com/Asian%20man%20thinking%20about%20English%20editing%20(we%20hope).jpg http://dvice.com/pics/IBM-roadrunner-supercomputer.jpg
- - Telescope: http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b194/Wolfman29/blurrywoman.jpg http://www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar/images/blog/GTCout.jpg
- - Laser: https://moderneurope.wikispaces.com/file/view/Galileo.arp.300pix.jpg/31148749/Galileo.arp.300pix.jpg http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/images/2008/04/08/laser_3clean.jpg
- - Particle Accelerators: http://faintingchicken.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/office_space_computer_smashing-25298.jpg http://www.johnlongbottom.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/caveman.jpg