The National Ignition Facility

At Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center about 50 miles east of San Francisco, scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) are trying to achieve self-sustaining nuclear fusion -- in other words, to create a miniature star on Earth. The core of the NIF is a house-sized spherical chamber aiming 192 massive lasers at a tiny target. One recent laser experiment focused nearly 2 megajoules (the energy consumed by 20,000 100-watt light bulbs in one second) of light energy onto a millimeter-sized sphere of deuterium and tritium in a 16-nanosecond pulse. The resulting energetic output, while far short of being a self-sustaining reaction, set a record for energy return, and has scientists hopeful as they fine-tune the targeting, material, and performance of the instruments. The facility itself bristles with machinery and instruments, impressing the producers of the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness, who used it as a film set for the warp core of the starship Enterprise.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.
Jump to Comments

Most Recent

  • AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

    The Symmetry and Shapes of Makha Bucha at Wat Dhammakaya Temple

    Thousands of Buddhists gathered at Thailand's Wat Dhammakaya Temple on Wednesday to observe Makha Bucha, a religious holiday that marks the anniversary of Buddha's mass sermon to the first 1,250 newly ordained monks 2,558 years ago.

  • Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

    Beijing's Toxic Sky

    In Beijing, awareness of the dangers of the polluted sky is now on the rise, thanks to growing data on its air quality. China will "declare war on pollution," Premier Li Keqiang told parliament in an opening address in 2014. A tougher environmental law took effect on January 1, while a new environment minister took charge on Friday.

  • Thomas Peter/Reuters

    A Visit to Aoshima, a Japanese 'Cat Island'

    Aoshima Island is one of about a dozen "cat islands" around Japan, small places where there are significantly more feline residents than people. In Aoshima more than a hundred cats prowl the island, curling up in abandoned houses or strutting about in the quiet fishing village.

  • Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

    A Winter in Siberia

    Based in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, the Reuters photographer Ilya Naymushin captures scenes from around the region, portraying everyday life as Russians work, play, and survive in a place infamous for its harsh winters. This collection of photos from the past winter shows some of the ways people are coping, including vehicles modified for the winter, hand-built ice-fishing huts, ice sculptures, traditional festivals, sporting events, and more.

Join the Discussion