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4 Plasma Technologies That Put Video Game Weapons to Shame

#2. Z Machine

The Z Machine sounds like an evil invention by a sleepy Batman villain and looks like something Michael Bay would cut from a movie for being too awesome to exist with current special effects. Which is why physicists built it with real current effects.

Sandia National Laboratories
More lightning than Zeus attacking Thor for rubbing him with cats.

The PBFA-Z (Particle Beam Fusion Accelerator, Z-pinch version ... you don't need an acronym when all the words are this awesome) is the largest X-ray generator in the world. In fact it's the most powerful and efficient radiation source it's possible to turn on instead of firing at enemy nations.

Anyone can create high temperatures by adding more current -- people with Christmas lights and desperately misplaced senses of personal achievement learn that every year -- but the Z Machine is designed to do it more than once, which is a far harder challenge.

Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
"Well yes, we could call them 'plasma physicists,' but we're going with 'dickheads we wish Smokey the Bear could eat.'"

It discharges a ring of immense capacitors into parallel tungsten wires. The matter-shattering currents instantly turn the tungsten to plasma and create intense magnetic forces between them, zeta-pinching all the plasma wires into one appallingly hot filament. This subjects the targets to over 25 million amps -- that's more current than 700 simultaneous lightning strikes -- and pressures over 10 million atmospheres. It can reach temperatures of over 2 billion Kelvin. It can melt diamond. Because when you adventure beyond the miniscule damp speck of reality that supports human bodies, you can turn our hardest materials into Dali paintings.

Sandia National Laboratories
One of the warp cores they clearly stole from the starship Enterprise.

It's so far beyond anything we normally understand about electricity, it uses water lines to transmit power, and "covered in lightning bolts" means it's functioning properly. It's pure plasmapunk, vast energies barely but definitely channeled by our shiny brilliance. It's also working on fusion power, but being honest, if it did nothing but exist that awesomely, it would already have elevated our species.

#1. Quark Gluon Plasma

Quark gluon plasma sounds like a drink on Deep Space 9 and is even more out of this world.

Paramount
"I spent more of my life in makeup than most makeup artists. You're damn right I'm sure I want another drink."

Regular plasma is when you merely strip the electrons from an atomic nucleus. Quark gluon plasma is when you shatter that nucleus and then melt the pieces. This only happens at high densities and high energies. Historically, that meant using all the matter and all the energy, ever, because QCP is a phase the entire universe went through in the first microseconds after the Big Bang.

cenk erdem/iStock/Getty Images
The Caped Cosmological Theory posits that Batman punched the universe into existence, because he really did prepare for everything.

And we're making it. One of the groups involved is the PHENIX Collaboration, and there is no way they're not G.I. Joe villains.

Brookhaven National Laboratories
They already have the subterranean base full of hypertech and staff determined to change the world.

The Pioneering High Energy Nuclear Interactions Experiment is even Bondier in operation than acronymy, using the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider to accelerate gold ions into subnuclear fireballs. Sure, they only need a few grams of gold to run for all time, but at this point it seems a shame to not rob Fort Knox anyway.

Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
Screw the Grand Unified Theory -- a couple hours with a hammer and we could make a real Triforce!

Another group squeezing out droplets of big bang juice is ALICE, A Large Ion Collider Experiment, making even heavier hadron-wreckage out of lead.

CERN
Looking like something in the Ghostbusters' cartoon basement.

Understand: Our quark gluon plasma makes stars look like candles. The PHENIX plasma reached a world record of 4 trillion degrees; ALICE burned past it to 5.5 trillion. At this level, it really doesn't matter if you're using Celsius or Kelvin. In either case, the units look like trying to measure the sun with a toothpick: insanely insufficient for a subject that destroys the very concepts you're using to quantify it. Except the QCP is 300,000 times hotter than the sun's thermonuclear core. We're generating it to better understand the basic nature of matter, including (but certainly not limited to) little things like the origin of the universe.

So if you're wondering why most scientists don't get involved in creation debates, it's because they're getting on with creation science, skipping the stupid shouting matches to generate bits of the beginning of existence itself.


Luke enjoys faith as well as science with The Original Creator's Creation Myth, and looks at an even more important story with Three Ways Die Hard Is Perfect for Valentine's Day. He also tumbles and responds to every single tweet.

Behold more space glory in 5 Astronauts More Badass Than Any Action Movie Hero and The 5 Coolest Things We've Ever Sent into Orbit.

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