I am sometimes a little taken aback by what I see out my window. Is God trying to get my attention through signs in the heavens? Ancient Roman priests (a group to which many people believe I belong) used to look for signs in the sky, right? They looked for portents.
In the meantime, the nice people at Astronomy Pic of the Day, which I have helped myself to before for this blog has a note today about The Z-MACHINE. Hmmmm…..
What does The Z-MACHINE do (other than write these daily entires)?
The Z Machine is the largest X-ray generator in the world. It tests materials in conditions of extreme temperature and pressure.
It released an electrical pulse and associated magnetic field. The energy from a 20-million-ampere electrical discharge (= "a lot") vaporizes thin tungsten wires. A powerful magnetic field crushes the ensuing plasma. The collapsing plasma produces x-rays. The X-rays create a shock wave. The fluctuation in the magnetic field (or "electromagnetic pulse") generates electric current in all of the metallic objects in the room.
Shades of The Matrix 3.
Why is it called The Z-MACHINE even without a very cool family name? Electrical current travels vertically into the target, which is conventionally the z axis (x and y being horizontal). Vertical wires give The Z Machine its name.
This very cool machine was designed to supply 50 terawatts of power (= "a lot") in one fast pulse. However, it was souped up to 290 terawatts (= "really a lot"), enough to study nuclear fusion.
Z (The Machine, not The Priest) releases 80 times the world’s electrical power usage for a few trillionths of a second. However, only a small amount of electricity is consumed for each test (equal to the usage of 100 houses for two minutes).
The Z Machine can propel small plates at 34 km/s, faster than the 30 km/s that Earth travels in its orbit as it whirls around the Sun.
Recently The Z Machine made some pretty hot plasma. It was more than two billion Kelvin. How hot is that? Hotter than the interiors of the Sun. The Z Machine is helping to explain the physics of solar flares, design more efficient nuclear fusion plants, test materials under extreme heat, gather data for the computer modeling of nuclear explosions, and provide hot material for blogs.