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Guns and Butter

And now, from the strange bedfellows department:

Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, California, have their 500 trillion watt laser beam locked and loaded. Once it's in action this spring, the laser could be a first step toward harnessing fusion energy; a window into the ultra-high pressure environments inside gas planets; and a test lab where astrophysicists can experiment on "artificial stars." And, oh yeah, it will simulate the conditions inside a nuclear bomb. Its priorities, you may have guessed, are not necessarily in that order.

This isn't the first time basic science has piggybacked on research of a more weaponly persuasion. Captured V-2 rockets were the workhorses of post-WWII atmospheric science; gamma ray bursts were discovered by Air Force satellites designed to spot covert nuclear blasts.

So how do we talk about science at NIF while being upfront about the machine's real experimental priorities? You tell us.
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