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Lab Produces 3.6 Billion Degree Gas 594

Posted by samzenpus
from the hotter-than-the-sun dept.
starexplorer2001 writes "LiveScience is reporting how scientists at Sandia's Z laboratory have produced superheated gas exceeding temperatures of 3.6 billion degrees Fahrenheit (2 billion kelvins). That's hotter than the interior of our sun, which is only 15 million degrees F. And they don't know how they did it. Do we want anything that hot on our planet?"
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Lab Produces 3.6 Billion Degree Gas

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  • by Smidge204 (605297) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @10:17PM (#14880226) Journal
    Well, from what I know of conventional thermodynamics... some quantity of mass must have been converted to energy.

    The real catch is thus: "...the high temperature was achieved after the plasma's ions should have been losing energy and cooling."

    I find this is exciting! Some of the best science starts with the words "Gee, that's funny..."
    =Smidge=
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @10:50PM (#14880352) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, an awful lot of science ends with...

    "So, what exactly did you do before the lab exploded?"
  • by GrayFox777 (908337) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @11:09PM (#14880421)
    Some of the greatest discoveries and inventions are accidental.
  • why farenheit??? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tbird81 (946205) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @11:19PM (#14880455)
    Surely the calculations that they do are not done in farenheit (probably kept in Kelvins). I don't see how millions of degrees Farenheit is easier to understand than the equivalent in Celcius (or even Kelvins).

    It's not like it's a weather report or anything! Keep it scientific!

  • by schnitzi (243781) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @11:19PM (#14880456) Homepage
    When you light a campfire with a match, you get more energy out than you put in.

    Sorry, this is not a recipe for perpetual motion. For a new energy source, maybe, but not perpetual motion.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @11:28PM (#14880485) Homepage
    Bwah? That's the most interesting part, to me. I mean, they MUST have had that sucker plugged into a surge protector. From where did the energy appear?

    Well, given these are high-energy physycists working at Sandia National Labs [sandia.gov], and they've been able to consistenly replicate this, I don't think we're talking about any perpetual-motion quackery here.

    It's safe to assume that when they say it generated more energy than input to the system, they're right. They just need to try and figure out the details now.

  • by yorktown (947019) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @11:37PM (#14880512)
    The staff writer wrote:
    "A very strong magnetic field compresses the plasma into the thickness of a pencil lead. This causes the plasma to release energy in the form of X-rays, but the X-rays are usually only several million degrees."
    X-ray are a form of electromagnetic energy, and as such don't have a temperature. Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic motion of atoms or molecules. X-rays aren't atoms or molecules.
    The fact that the writer doesn't know this makes me suspect the validity of the rest of the article.
  • by Lanboy (261506) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @11:45PM (#14880552)
    Keep us from driving too fast?
  • by Ummu (830131) on Wednesday March 08, 2006 @11:56PM (#14880609)
    It's informative because nobody understands you.
  • If you think E=MC^2 has anything to do with an endothermic oxidation reaction, you had to have flunked basic chemistry.

    You're adding energy in the form of the high potential energy found in the compounds in wood (cellulose is a good example); meanwhile, excess energy is being continuously added in the even higher-potential of a common diatom: oxygen.

    Of course, you have to add energy to liberate the atoms in the first place, that being a match and the flame off your starter fluid and kindling.

    Hey, campfires are complex.
  • by rtaylor (70602) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:23AM (#14880744) Homepage
    Unfortunately, an awful lot of science ends with...

    "So, what exactly did you do before the lab exploded?"

    Isn't that usually when the military steps in with funding?
  • by Bad D.N.A. (753582) <(baddna) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @12:28AM (#14880760)
    Some of the best science starts with the words "Gee, that's funny..."

    wrong... All good science starts with:

    WTF..
  • Re:Not fusion. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918@g m a i l .com> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:03AM (#14880902)
    Because the density is nowhere near high enough. Fusion capsules that are imploded in the center of these devices get to be 30-50 times compressed, whereas this plasma is not compressed in any way like this, or to anywhere near this extreme.

    People are simply confusing the fusion research that is done with Z-machine with what is going on here. The increase in temperature has already been explained by a model that has been shown to fit the data, and does not involve anything in the way of fusion.
  • by Malor (3658) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @01:40AM (#14881037) Journal
    "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not Eureka, but rather 'Hmm, that's funny...'"

    -- Isaac Asimov

    This is potentially a very, very big deal. The temperature is NOT the most important thing... that's the headline for dummies.

    The important part: they're getting out more energy than they're putting in, and they don't understand why.

  • by NoData (9132) <_NoData_.yahoo@com> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @02:03AM (#14881107)
    So your claiming that E=MC^2 is not intimately and directly related to a endothermic oxidation reaction ?

    Your claiming that somehow the basic principles of E=MC^2 break down when it comes to a specific type of reaction?


    Christ, man. He didn't say relativistic principles break down, he said they're superfluous. It's overkill for the example. You're liberating energy in the form of chemical bonds, so the loss of mass as energy is pretty much negligible in chemical reactions, 'cause the mass-energy of the reactants utterly overwhelms the amount of energy released. Mass is, for all practical purposes, conserved.

    I think chemists and physicists understood combustion pretty well before Einstein came along. There was this guy, you know, Lavoisier, he had a few things to say about stuff sticking around.

    But come the hell on. If you have a graduate degree in physics you know this. You're just being a jerk to save some face.
  • Re:Duh, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cruachan (113813) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @03:35AM (#14881327)
    Err, that's just what they did. Obviously reading is a challenge for you as just a few paragraphs in they say

    "At first, we were disbelieving," said project leader Chris Deeney. "We repeated the experiment many times to make sure we had a true result."

    Obviously no need for divine relevation there then.

    As for the thermometer, well duh, obviousky they're measuring the temperature (i.e. energy) of radiation.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:01AM (#14881380)
    Actually, if you pull the original article from Physical Review Letters, there is not a single word about that anything does not perfectly meet theoretical expectations. Not a single word about an "unknown energy source is involved".
  • by brunes69 (86786) <<gro.daetsriek> <ta> <todhsals>> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:43AM (#14881771) Homepage

    Do we want anything that hot on our planet?"

    Indeed. I love science, and in general I have tremendous faith in most scientists and physiscists. But science has progressed to a state where we are starting to venture into areas where there are huge swaths of unknowns, in physics, genetics, and nanotechnology.

    I mean, this quote sums it up for me......some unknown energy source is involved.... Wow, so basically, they did this experiment, which resulted in a breaking of one of the fundamental laws of thermodynamics, and resulted in a gas billions of degrees higher than expected?

    GMO crops, artifical black holes, supercolliding particles ( of which sometimes we don't even know what will happen until we do it)... I mean, I am beginning to think man is not going to be obliterated through war, or disease, or a nuclear holocost, but just in an instant flash of some experiment gone wrong.

    We need to be very careful, the forces we are starting to toy with are both potent and dangerous, as well as increasingly misunderstood.

  • Re:Duh, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @09:57AM (#14882157)
    what do you mean they don't know how they did it? I thought scientists use the so-called Scientific Method they taught us all about in school. And I thought that in this Scientific Method, you're supposed to record everything you do, so that the experiment can be reproduced by other scientists.

          So you create a hypothesis and design an experiment to test it out. You expect the results to be A if it works, and B if it doesn't work. But funnily enough, your result was C. Does this suddenly cast doubt on science and the scientific method in general? No. It just means that the original hypothesis is incorrect and nature doesn't work as expected. Now you just have to scratch your head and figure out how the hell "C" happens.

    Sounds to me like this story is a bunch of hogwash, now that I think of it. How would you even measure the temperature in order to come to the conclusion that it was 3.6 billion degrees? There's not a thermometer on the planet that can measure something that hot.

          I find it disturbing that something is "hogwash" just because you don't understand it. Perhaps if you educated yourself a little more on the subject then you'd understand how it's done.
  • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalkerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @10:45AM (#14882431) Journal
    My thoughts exactly. If they don't know how they made it, there is a good chance they didn't actually do it and its simply a wrong measurement. In science you should never assume a measurement that is way off the norm to be accurate without checking and double checking and doing your experiment over several times.
  • Thus, the bottom line here is, unfortunately, that what happened in this experiment was that one component of the total energy input, magnetic energy, which normally is not converted into heat, was converted into heat by a new mechanism.

    Rats - no fusion. Instead, all we got is a previously unknown energy conversion that could possibly be useful in future creations. What's the point in getting a new energy conversion mechanism if it's not fusion?

  • by Mycroft_VIII (572950) on Friday March 10, 2006 @05:05AM (#14889292) Journal
    Some other posters have directed links to what they think the energy source is, some sort of turbulence effect.
        Considering the fact that they re-ran the experiment quite a few times and the magnitude of the difference I think they have a good enough set of measurments for the ballpark figure they gave. It's not as if they said 3,602,308,667.2 degrees.

    Mycroft

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