Star-maker machinery*

The Large Helical Device: “The world’s largest stellarator”. That’s right: it pretty much makes stars.

Large Helical Device
(via Derestricted: click through for the LARGE version)

Hmmmm. Swirly.
Granted, it’s not as large as the Large Hadron Collider**, but it is incredibly, dazzlingly beautiful.

AND you can watch it in action — a truly awesome thing to behold:

(footage via stevebd1. Lots more (apparently unembeddable) clips at National Institute for Fusion Science, Japan

From what I can gather, this is superheated plasma — what stars are made of — whipping through the Tesla-creating swirly swirls of the LHD, at super fast speeds and super hot heats. Wow.

But, as the Caterpillar in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland might have asked if faced with such an existential quandry: Y?

Umm, for use as a potential source of nuclear fusion energy. I think.

Plasma is very hot, ionized gas that can conduct electricity – essentially, it’s what stars are made of. If heated to the point of ignition, hydrogen ions could fuse into helium, the same reaction that powers the sun. This fusion could be a clean, sustainable and limitless energy source.

…N’importe quoi
: whatever its purpose, this whatsit earns extra kudos for two simple reasons.

Firstly, when I think “Tesla”, I think Bowie.

(as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006))

And secondly, when I think “power coils”, I think “arc reactors”, a là Iron Man (2008).
Iron Man Arc Reactor - NY Times Movies
(image via NY Times Movies)

To sum up, Large Helical Device = “stellarator” + beautiful + awesome + Bowie + Iron Man.***

So sorry, LHC, but I think this makes the LHD the world’s greatest unfathomably complicated sciency thing.

* Courtesy of Joni Mitchell, “Free Man in Paris”.

** CERN has to shut down the LHC during the northern winter. Not because the scientists all go on holidays, fagged out after a 20-year wind-up. Not because it’s dark and nobody wants to get out of bed and go to work underground. It’s because for the 22 days of mid-winter, when the French and Swiss are all using heaters to avoid turning into chocolate popsicles, there basically isn’t enough power to run the LHC and France at the same time.

*** Disclaimer: I haven’t solved an equation since Year 10 maths, and even then I got it wrong.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)


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