No more cold showers

There will never be a water heater like this available to us civilians, and it’s almost certainly hazardous to your health, your plumbing, or both, but damn, it’s impressive:

[A]n international team of researchers hit a tiny jet of water with a flash from an X-ray laser called the Linac Coherent Light Source at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the US. Needless to say the thin stream of water got hot fairly quickly.

“It is not the usual way to boil your water,” says physicist Carl Caleman from Uppsala University in Sweden. “Normally, when you heat water, the molecules will just be shaken stronger and stronger.”

Instead, the flash of X-rays punched the electrons right off the water molecules, setting them off balance. “So, suddenly the atoms feel a strong repulsive force and start to move violently,” says Caleman.

That violent jiggling — for all purposes what we refer to as “heat” — is equal to a scorching 100,000 degrees Celsius, way hotter than Earth’s core. What’s more, it takes less than 75 femtoseconds to accomplish this, which doesn’t give the molecules making up the trickle of water much time to escape.

The last person to shower in a seven-person household, a position I have held and did not enjoy, will look at that “75 femtoseconds” and think “If only”; the fact that this water-like substance will vaporize one’s skin won’t even be considered.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

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