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Scary Heat

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Mysterious Z Machine Superheating Baffles Scientists


By James Donahue

March 2006


An experiment with a device called a “Z Machine” at Sandia National Laboratories, A Department of Energy operation in California last month did something quite astounding and researchers say they don’t know why it happened.


The machine produced superheated gas exceeding 2 billion degrees Kelvin or 3.6 billion degrees Fahrenheit, the most extreme heat ever known to exist even in our solar system. The interior of the Sun, by comparison, is estimated at 15 million degrees Kelvin.


Thermonuclear explosions are estimated to reach tens to hundreds of millions of degrees Kelvin. Other nuclear fusion experiments have achieved temperatures of about 500 million degrees Kelvin. But a heat reaching 2 billion degrees Kelvin is not only unexpected, the scientists who did it say they don’t know why it happened, or how it was done.


That is the scary part. They don’t know why it happened. It just happened.


The Z machine is a massive X-ray generator. Some say it is the largest of its kind in the world. It is designed to test materials under extreme temperatures and pressures. Perfect for testing materials for going into and returning from space through Earth’s atmosphere.


The machine works by releasing 20 million amps of electricity into an array of fine tungsten wires. The wires dissolve into a cloud of charged particles that become a superheated gas called plasma. A strong magnetic field compresses the plasma, causing it to release energy in the form of X-rays.


Here is where the mystery comes in. The X-rays are normally measured at a heat of several million degrees.


The only thing different about this particular experiment was that researchers replaced the tungsten steel wires with slightly thicker steel wires, thus allowing the plasma ions to travel faster and in this way, achieved higher temperatures.


But nobody dreamed the heat would reach the levels it did.


Also, the scientists at Sandia said these temperatures were reached after the plasma’s ions should have been losing energy and cooling. They said another oddity was that when this temperature was achieved, the Z machine was releasing more energy than was originally put into it. They noted that this is something that usually only happens in nuclear reactions.


Since this happened at a Department of Energy laboratory, we can just see the gears grinding in the heads of the top scientists and especially the military generals who have heard about this phenomenon. You can bet they are going to call for more experiments with this device.


Heat hundreds of times hotter than the Sun would make the perfect doomsday bomb. If they can have such a weapon, you can bet they are going to make it.



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