National Ignition Facility Laser (Image courtesy Popular Science)
By Andrew Liszewski

Sure the Wicked Lasers Spyder series that David recently reviewed are impressive and all but to really wow your friends you need a laser capable of generating a thermonuclear detonation when you flick it on.

It won’t be fully operational until 2009 but the National Ignition Facility’s (NIF) newest laser will be 60 times as powerful as its predecessor and the hardware and electronics that power their new toy will require a space larger than a football stadium. Each 20 nanosecond burst the laser makes will blast the target material with 500 trillion watts of power which is equal to 1,000 times the electrical output of the entire U.S. over the same period of time. Cool.

The laser will be used to study fusion reactions, astrophysics, nuclear weapons and on the weekends to annoy other patrons in the local movie theater.

[NIF 500-Trillion-Watt Laser VIA Popular Science]