Video: ‘Laser Annihilation’
Whether in the pages of H.G. Wells, the serial adventures of Flash Gordon, or that epic science fiction saga that is Star Wars, the appearance of laser beams—or rays or phasers or blasters—ultimately meant the imminent disintegration of our hero or perhaps something a little larger, say, an entire planet.
Today we recognize the laser is reality beyond science fiction, used in targeted surgeries, precision manufacturing and in the exploration of materials at the nanoscale. Yet, harnessing the once-fabled destructive capabilities of certain lasers is proving invaluable on the path toward scientific discovery.
The X-ray Electron-free Laser (XFEL) is the perfect example of new technology and old perceptions converging on that narrow boundary between science and science fiction.