Monday, January 4, 2010

Transparent Aluminum! (dum dum dum…)

Hopefully this post will be long on speculation, short on theory. I keep getting sidetracked by the hows and the whys, and am consequently not talking much about the "then what's", which is what my mandate says I'm supposed to be discussing….

Almost everything you need to know comes from this article here:*

Professor Wark added: ‘What is particularly remarkable about our experiment is that we have turned ordinary aluminium into this exotic new material in a single step by using this very powerful laser. For a brief period the sample looks and behaves in every way like a new form of matter. In certain respects, the way it reacts is as though we had changed every aluminium atom into silicon: it’s almost as surprising as finding that you can turn lead into gold with light!’

By bombarding aluminum with a high-powered X-ray laser, and knocking an electron out of each atom, Wark et al. have created transparent aluminum**. It doesn't last very long, but what the hey.

Things the scientists suggest we can do:
  • understand the inner workings of planets
  • understand 'miniature stars' which would lead to understanding nuclear fusion better
  • study exotic states of matter
Other things we could do:
  • make other elements transparent (lead, gold, copper)
  • find a way to keep the transparency, so we could have UV-transparent walls (no clue what they would be used for, but they'd be cool)
  • find a way to make the equipment portable, so we could look through walls by using the UV as a kind of radar (very cool for spies, law enforcement, criminals, and jealous boyfriends)
  • find another state of matter (What if you hit liquid oxygen with x-rays? Or hydrogen plasma? Or a Bose-Einstein condensate? Or water? What exactly would transparent water look like?)
  • take our newfound planetary geological knowledge and build ourselves a planet 
  • found Magrathea
  • calm down a volcanic extrasolar planet, to make it suitable for terraforming
  • build ourselves a star
  • take the planets and the star and make a solar system
  • prevent a star from going red giant (such as Sol)
I suppose it's too much to hope that we could use this technology to make matter transparent to other wavelengths of radiation—like visible light? I'm not a physicist, but I'm betting that wouldn't work.

Anybody else have ideas? Weigh in!

* Gratias, Engadget!
** but only invisible to UV radiation

No comments: