The World's Largest X-Ray Generator, the Z Machine, Inspires Art

More

Used to study the physical properties of dense stars like white dwarfs, Sandia National Laboratory's Z Machine looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie. The technology became the muse of an artist, Leah Flippen, when she took an astronomy class with Don Winget, a professor working with the machine. This short documentary by Daniel Oppenheimer and Alex Wang explores the intersection of art and science in Flippen's painting and Winget's research.

The science is complex, but Oppenheimer breaks it down in an article for the University of Texas's Science News

For a few nanoseconds, the power and density of the current is so great — more than six times the total amount of energy released by all the power plants in the world — that it vaporizes the wires, generating a gas-like substance known as hydrogen plasma. It simultaneously produces a magnetic field powerful enough to cause the plasma to implode. For that brief nanomoment, as the magnetism “pinches” the plasma, generating a massive burst of X-radiation, Winget has a chunk of white dwarf star of his very own.

Don't miss the high resolution image (2,400 x 1,586 pixels) of the Z Machine available here, photographed by Randy Montoya for Sandia National Laboratories.

Jump to comments

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Video

Just In