Science: High Hopes for a Super Nova

Unveiling the world's most powerful laser

In the lobby of Building No. 391 at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory near San Francisco stands a cast-iron sculpture of Shiva, the multiarmed god whose whirligig dances, according to Hindu tradition, alternately create and destroy all earthly life. Near by is a wood-and-plastic model of Nova, the world's most powerful laser, which is housed in cavernous quarters the size of a football field. The juxtaposition of the two objects is apt, and for several reasons. Like Shiva, the $176 million laser bristles with its equivalent of arms: ten bright blue tubes, each a conduit for an intense laser beam. And like Shiva,...

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