Research Papers in Physics and Astronomy


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Published in Nature 404 (2000), p. 239. © 2000 Nature Publishing Group. Used by permission


Lasers have become ubiquitous, being used in everything from a bar-code reader to a compact disk player. Who would have thought that they might be used to split the atom? A few scientists proposed to do just that more that a decade ago. But accomplishing it in the laboratory had to await the maturity of new technology, which enabled the construction of the world's most powerful lasers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the United States and at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the United Kingdom. Now two independent research teams have used these lasers to split the uranium atom. This work, reported in Physical Review Letters, is just the latest milestone in the race to discover what happens when matter interacts with the highest electromagnetic field strengths of light.

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