pageok
pageok
pageok
Now That's Hot:
I'm looking forward to the end of winter, but 3.6 billion degrees Fahrenheit sounds rather uncomfortably hot.
Ross Levatter (mail):
It sounds even worse in Kelvin...
3.10.2006 1:39am
Fishbane (mail):
That's actually interesting. Producing that intensity of interaction should enable looking at very energetic partical reactions. This is getting reasonably close condintions of the early universe. Neat stuff. Young Earthers, ah, the black quilting is to your right.
3.10.2006 2:48am
Kovarsky (mail):
They're using Kelvin instead of Centigrade to infalte the stats!

Seriously, for the life of me, I don't understand why a temperature on the order of 2.0 billion degrees would be reported in Kelvin. Many don't know what that metric is, even though I believe it's just centigrade + 273 or something like that.

Either way, we're in for six months of it in houston.
3.10.2006 2:48am
Eric Muller (www):
It's not the heat, Orin; it's the humidity.
3.10.2006 5:24am
Shangui (mail):
Comment of the week award to Eric Muller.
3.10.2006 8:48am
great unknown (mail):
a) They are using Kelvin instead of centigrade because physicists (past high school) don't use centigrade for anything other than weather reports.
b) Since the 2.0 billion degrees was reported with only two significant digits, it could be off by as much as 50 million degrees: the 273 degree conversion from Kelvin to centigrade is ridiculously insignificant
c) The true inflation is from Kelvin to Farenheit, which nearly doubles the result. I suspect that was done for metrically illiterate Americans - including news editors.
d) the true significance of the event is the statement that "we're not really sure where the extra energy came from." Now that really opens some interesting avenues of speculation.
3.10.2006 9:45am
Wrigley:
I'll preface that this could be the most off-topic comment in a while. But, seeing this whole thread is about heated gas rather than, you know, law stuff, I think it's OK.

On top of the six months of miserableness in Houston to which Kovarsky alludes, I thought I'd quote Bill Simmons on Houston:


Put it this way: When you ask the concierge of a major hotel in Houston where you should go in the city to walk around, do some sightseeing and kill a couple of hours, and that concierge thinks about it for a few seconds, hems and haws, then refers you to the Galleria Mall and tells you, "That's really about it," then your city sucks to visit. I hate to break it to you.
3.10.2006 9:50am
KevinM:
The conversion to Kelvin reminds me of the museum guide who explains that that the fossil is two million and six years old. How does he know so precisely? "They told me, when I came to work here six years ago...."
3.10.2006 9:53am
Rich K (mail) (www):
It's not that surprising that they were able to find such hot air in Washington.
3.10.2006 10:19am
Justin (mail):
But its SO NICE OUT. I love DC.
3.10.2006 10:43am
Justin (mail):
Okay, so what sort of material would contain a gas that was 2 billion degrees kelvin?
3.10.2006 10:44am
Michael Patrick Gibson (mail):
Justin-

The flux capacitor of course.
3.10.2006 10:57am
blah (mail):
More information here and here.
3.10.2006 11:39am
paris hilton:
orin,
i hope you know that saying "now that's hot" is like totally my thing.

paris
3.10.2006 12:02pm
Kovarsky (mail):
great unknown,

i can see how i was unclear. but my entire point was that everybody knows what celsius is and nobody knows what kelvin is, it would make more sense to quote the two billion dollar figure because the variation between kelvin and centigrade at 2 bigazillian degrees doesn't matter. i am aware that kelvin is the favored term for scientists.
3.10.2006 12:10pm
Kovarsky (mail):
two billion degree. ive got water money on the brain.
3.10.2006 12:13pm
Nobody Special:
This is the machine at issue.

It even looks awesomely mad-scientist.
3.10.2006 1:00pm
Mobius (mail):
But it's a dry heat...

Interesting quote from blah's links.

"First, the radiated x-ray output was as much as four times the expected kinetic energy input.
Ordinarily, in non-nuclear reactions, output energies are less — not greater — than the total input energies. More energy had to be getting in to balance the books, but from where could it come?

Second, and more unusually, high ion temperatures were sustained after the plasma had stagnated — that is, after its ions had presumably lost motion and therefore energy and therefore heat — as though yet again some unknown agent was providing an additional energy source to the ions."

Could this be a new energy source?
3.10.2006 1:08pm
DaveK (mail):
Mobius:

First, the radiated x-ray output was as much as four times the expected kinetic energy input.
Ordinarily, in non-nuclear reactions, output energies are less — not greater — than the total input energies. More energy had to be getting in to balance the books, but from where could it come?

I think the press release is unfortunately a little unclear about this, but my reading is that in the phrase "expected kinetic energy input", the qualifiers "expected kinetic" are important. The total energy output isn't higher than the total energy input, so this isn't a new energy source--it's just an unexpected conversion of more of the energy of the magnetic field into heat (hence the "more energy had to be getting in").

It sounds like what's going on is that, ordinarily, the device works by converting the kinetic energy of the ions (accelerated by the magnetic field) into thermal energy (and thence into X-rays). The output radiation ordinarily doesn't exceed the expected kinetic energy of the ions. However, some previously-unknown process is converting some more of the magnetic field's energy into kinetic energy after the plasma has formed, resulting in the energy spike.

But this energy is coming right out of the energy needed to charge up the reactor's magnets in the first place--it's not a nifty new way to generate power (as from nuclear fusion) or anything.
3.10.2006 2:00pm
KMAJ (mail):
Mobius, DaveK

The Sandia site story does imply it has energy source potential:

The unexpectedly hot output, if its cause were understood and harnessed, could eventually mean that smaller, less costly nuclear fusion plants would produce the same amount of energy as larger plants.


With the standard 'if' proviso.
3.10.2006 2:56pm
ilovecapitalism (mail) (www):
Umm...

Perhaps I am a little naïve on the sciences here, but how does someone measure 3.6 billion degrees? And where can that high of a temperature safely exist?
3.10.2006 3:15pm
Question:
To answer Justin, it is kept in magnetic fields...
3.10.2006 3:15pm
Mobius (mail):
Okay, I have a different question for DaveK. If stainless steel molecules are compressed until they hit a wall and stop moving, then wouldn't the molecules (or what every form of matter it may be) be at absolute zero? As I understand absolute zero, it is a point where movement of atomic particles stops.
3.10.2006 3:43pm
Cabbage:
Does anyone else worry that these crazy scientists will inadvertently create a black hole or a planetary explosion or something as they experiement with these super-colliding super conductor thingies (I'm not a scientist...)

Or is that only a worry on Star Trek?
3.10.2006 4:17pm
Le Messurier (mail):
ilovecapitalism

Perhaps I am a little naïve on the sciences here, but how does someone measure 3.6 billion degrees?

From Blah's links:
"The results, recorded by spectrometers and confirmed by computer models created by John Apruzese and colleagues at Naval Research Laboratory, have held up over 14 months of additional tests."

I must say that the machine looks much like one I once had. Unfortunatley, the wheels came off.
3.10.2006 4:25pm
Le Messurier (mail):
Rich K
It's not that surprising that they were able to find such hot air in Washington.

I may be missing something in your humour or in the thread, but Sandia Lab is in Albuquerque, NM. They work closely with Los Alamos NL.
3.10.2006 4:30pm
Scaldis Noel:
Cabbage,

You said:
Does anyone else worry that these crazy scientists will inadvertently create a black hole or a planetary explosion or something as they experiement with these super-colliding super conductor thingies (I'm not a scientist...)

Or is that only a worry on Star Trek?


I assume you were mostly kidding, but just in case you weren't...

Supposing you could create a black hole or blow up a planet by colliding particles or heating a little bit of stuff to billions of degrees (which isn't how stuff like that works), the amount of energy involved in a black hole or exploding planet is many, many orders of magnitude larger than the energy they are using in these experiments. Think of an ant trying to push a 747 uphill, and you'll get an idea of how, even if physics allowed it, the energy required to do it isn't there.
3.10.2006 5:05pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I'm going to bet that there's a direct relationship between this "new" energy and the unexpected acceleration of the expansion of the universe.

As to the fear that this might create a world-devouring black hole or something... and so? We've all got one-way tickets anyway.
3.10.2006 6:32pm
SimonD (www):
I second ilovecapitalism's second question: how the hell does one contain a heat source hotter than the interior of the sun? Does this sort of stuff not strike anyone else as being profoundly dangerous, in a slightly The Core sort of fashion? It's all fun and games until someone ignotes the atmosphere or burns a hole through the planet.
3.11.2006 12:14am
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):

Does anyone else worry that these crazy scientists will inadvertently create a black hole or a planetary explosion or something as they experiement with these super-colliding super conductor thingies (I'm not a scientist...)

Or is that only a worry on Star Trek?

The earth has relatively enormous mass. This provides safeguards against its destruction and also against its being moved.

It is highly unlikely that a human endeavor would shatter the earth (break it up with sufficient force that the pieces acheive escape velocity and dont reform). This is because it would require enormous amounts of energy, far more than anything humans can divise with current technology or even realistically imanginable future technology.

If you could create that level of energy, unless you set your bomb off in the center of the earth it is more likely that a given enormous force would deform the surface of the earth and give it a nudge in the opposite direction. The end result of which would some new orbit, for better or (more likely) worse.

Regarding creating a black hole, it is unlikely since that would require at least 3 solar masses of material compressed to the density of a neutron star. Such a large amount of matter (even if not dense) would wreak intense havoc in our solar system by virtue of being the largest body. The sun and planets would orbit around it and we would have a binary system.

If you could take some small amount of matter (say several billion tons of material) and shrink it to the size of an atom, it would develop an event horizon, but it wouldnt destroy the earth any more than mt everest does. Due to its sharpness (it is an atom wide and weighs more than mt everest) it would immediately sink into the earth, orbit around the earth's center of gravity and eventually come to rest in the center of the earth. No one would even be aware of it except that gravitational sensors would see a mass in a very low (sub-surface) earth orbit. Might exert a very very small influence on tides.
3.11.2006 4:29pm
MAH (mail):
SimonD asks:
how the hell does one contain a heat source hotter than the interior of the sun?

Good question. The answer is, you dont. It's a very small amount of material that exists in that state for a small amount of time. It's suspended in a magnetic field so it never comes in contact with cooler, ordinary matter.
3.13.2006 2:11pm