The evolution of lasers...

Discussion in 'Physics' started by cmartinez, Aug 1, 2016.

  1. cmartinez

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 17, 2007
    I've just read this rather interesting article:

    And found two outstanding facts: the 1980s we paid $200,000 for a laser that I could buy today for less than $5

    That's pretty impressive... for a guy whose teenage years where lived in the 80's, it brings the economics of technology in perspective.

    But this other one, is simply mind boggling:
    Well, a project called the Extreme Light Infrastructure is now being built in Romania. It will focus laser pulses lasting less than a trillionth of a second to intensities so high that they can ionise the vacuum, creating positrons and electrons. It takes black holes to do that in nature.

    How is it possible to actually excite the vacuum to the point of ionization? Is it because the photon energy and density is so intense that virtual particles are not allowed to re-collapse on themselves? Would such phenomena make it possible to build an engine capable of propelling a spaceship without needing a propellant?
  2. wayneh


    Sep 9, 2010
    I'm extremely skeptical of that claim. Fusion reactions can convert energy to mass. This is the opposite of using fusion to release energy, but it's what happens for fusing atoms more massive than iron, if I recall correctly.

    Anyway, I don't think you can shoot pure light energy into the void and get mass out of it.

    Would love to be shown wrong.
  3. cmartinez

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 17, 2007
    Well, there really are virtual particles out there, and they're responsible for the already proved casimir effect.
    Besides, the article's source is serious enough to at least give it some objective consideration.
  4. nsaspook

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 27, 2009
    There is a point where it is theorized that EM becomes nonlinear. Schwinger limit

    The field would be so strong it would split apart the vacuum virtual particle/anti-particle pairs before they recombine. The problem is no one really knows if these so called virtual-particles ( disturbance in a field) interactions will result in true matter (most likely not).
    cmartinez likes this.
  5. cmartinez

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 17, 2007
    and that, is what experiments are for... although this one in particular will prove a bit expensive ...
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2016
  6. cmartinez

    Thread Starter AAC Fanatic!

    Jan 17, 2007

    Maxwell's equations predict the impossibility of any but trivial elastic photon–photon scattering. In QED, however, non-elastic photon–photon scattering becomes possible when the combined energy is large enough to create virtual electron–positron pairs spontaneously, illustrated by theFeynman diagram in the adjacent figure.

    The entire article is extremely interesting, especially the last paragraph:

    Photon–photon scattering and other effects of nonlinear optics in vacuum is an active area of experimental research, with current or planned technology beginning to approach the Schwinger limit.[5] It has already been observed through inelastic channels in SLAC Experiment 144.[6][7] However, the direct effects in elastic scattering have not been observed. As of 2012, the best constraint on the elastic photon–photon scattering cross section belongs toPVLAS, which reports an upper limit far above the level predicted by the Standard Model.[8] Proposals have been made to measure elastic light-by-light scattering using the strong electromagnetic fields of the hadrons collided at the LHC.[9] Observation of a cross section larger than that predicted by the Standard Model could signify new physics such as axions, the search of which is the primary goal of PVLAS and several similar experiments. Even the planned, funded ELI–Ultra High Field Facility, which will study light at the intensity frontier, is likely to remain well below the Schwinger limit[10] although it may still be possible to observe some nonlinear optical effects.[11] Such an experiment, in which ultra-intense light causes pair production, has been described in the popular media as creating a "hernia" in spacetime.[12]

    By "hernia" I assume the article means a spacetime rift?

    Thanks for the excellent reference, nsaspook.
  7. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    Keep up the research. This is one of the keys to transporter technology. (Beam me up, Scotty.):D
  8. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009
    Isn't this similar to what they are trying to do at the NIF(national ignition facility)?