Far-out physics of the new super laser

Have you heard the news out of San Francisco? Apparently a few technologically oriented scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories have created a super laser capable of producing temperatures that exist at the core of a star.
If you’re like me, you might be asking “What the hell?” A super laser? Really? What exactly are we discussing here? What are the positive benefits of such an invention? How would one go about utilizing a super laser? And, most importantly, how do I get my hands on one?
The only constructive use I have ever gotten out of a laser was at the occasional rock show when the temptation to blast the lead singer in the face with a red beam from a hundred yards out was too much to bear. That and with my not-so-clever, but oh-so-lovable dog. He loves chasing lasers. 
So when I read about the good folks at Lawrence Livermore — who are far beyond rock shows and dumb dogs in terms of laser use — I had to wonder what I’m missing. These guys aren’t lying when they call this laser “super.” Officially known as the National Ignition Facility, the super laser actually consists of 192 separate lasers capable of traveling 1,000 feet in one-thousandth of a second. All 192 lasers can converge simultaneously on a target as small as a pencil eraser with the push of a button.
After reading — and rereading — several articles on the new super laser, I still have no idea what we’ll be using this thing for. According to scientists, the super laser promises “groundbreaking discoveries in planetary science and astrophysics.” 
Federal officials, on the other hand, report that the super laser is a multifaceted project that guarantees “aging nuclear weapons are functioning properly without resorting to underground testing.” Keep in mind that the super laser can simulate the heat and pressure of a nuclear explosion. They then go on to say that the laser will be “providing some of the most critical technical means to safely maintain the viability of the nation’s nuclear stockpile.”
OK then. In other words, we need a weapon as hot as a star to protect our stash of explosives. Is that what they’re implying? The feds don’t seem too concerned with planetary science and astrophysics.
As is usually the case with advanced technology, multiple factions are laying claim to the super laser. While the scientists behind the laser are beside themselves with glee, I suspect the Department of Defense has its own ambitious plans. As I’m distracting a rock star with my puny laser, the DOD will be incinerating terrorists across the globe. It’s scary to think about, really. Can you imagine what Kim Jong of North Korea thinks of this development? If anything, I hope he’s slightly fearful of our laser labs here in California. We have more where that came from, Jong.
“It’s exactly the kind of innovation that Americans have come to expect from California,” a bragging Gov. Schwarzenegger said to reporters. Great. I see the bar has been set high for us. If you’re not experimenting with materials akin to stars, then you’re a nobody.
All planetary and nuclear stockpile talk aside, any fan of a Pink Floyd light show is undoubtedly pumped about the super laser. This will take “Dark Side of the Moon” to the next level. In fact, the super laser could probably bore a hole in the dark side of the moon. Trippy!

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