Scientists blow up their lab after creating strongest magnet ever

It's a record magnetic field, but... yeah. That didn't last long.

Photo: The University of Tokyo.
  • Scientists knew that it would probably explode, but they did not expect to reach such a record magnetic field.
  • Magnetic fields are measured in teslas, after Nikola Tesla.
  • This one reached a record 1,200 teslas, 400 times stronger than an MRI; watch it explode in the video


"With magnetic fields above 1,000 teslas, you open up some interesting possibilities," lead researcher Takeyama explained. "You can observe the motion of electrons outside the material environments they are normally within. So we can study them in a whole new light and explore new kinds of electronic devices. This research could also be useful to those working on fusion power generation."

The study, published in Review of Scientific Instruments, was released on September 17.

To achieve the record, the team used a technique known as electromagnetic flux-compression (EMFC). The instrument, which generates a low-strength magnetic field of 3.2 teslas, was attached to a row of capacitors that generate 3.2 megajoules, which is a huge amount of energy.

This compresses the magnetic field into a tiny area extremely quickly. But, as the team predicted, it can't be compressed for long, eventually creating a shock wave that rips the instrument apart. They expected this to happen after about 700 teslas, as that's what it was built to withstand. But incredibly, it reached 1,200 before exploding.

1,200 teslas later... a huge white light engulfs the lab. Video below!

Photo: The University of Tokyo.

Another view of the magnetic explosion

This image explains it a bit better, from the IEEE institute. "The University of Tokyo's 1,200-Tesla magnetic field generator is powered by a bank of capacitors [on left, white] capable of storing 5 megajoules. The capacitors' energy flows into the primary coil [bottom left, gray] and induces a counteracting current and magnetic field in the liner [orange]. This implodes the liner in 40 microseconds, compressing the magnetic field [bottom right]."

Graphic illustration of how the scientists hit the record.

Image by University of Tokyo.

Watch it go boom

A still from the film "We Became Fragments" by Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller, part of the Global Oneness Project library.

Photo: Luisa Conlon , Lacy Roberts and Hanna Miller / Global Oneness Project
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Stories are at the heart of learning, writes Cleary Vaughan-Lee, Executive Director for the Global Oneness Project. They have always challenged us to think beyond ourselves, expanding our experience and revealing deep truths.
  • Vaughan-Lee explains 6 ways that storytelling can foster empathy and deliver powerful learning experiences.
  • Global Oneness Project is a free library of stories—containing short documentaries, photo essays, and essays—that each contain a companion lesson plan and learning activities for students so they can expand their experience of the world.
Keep reading Show less

Four philosophers who realized they were completely wrong about things

Philosophers like to present their works as if everything before it was wrong. Sometimes, they even say they have ended the need for more philosophy. So, what happens when somebody realizes they were mistaken?

Sartre and Wittgenstein realize they were mistaken. (Getty Images)
Culture & Religion

Sometimes philosophers are wrong and admitting that you could be wrong is a big part of being a real philosopher. While most philosophers make minor adjustments to their arguments to correct for mistakes, others make large shifts in their thinking. Here, we have four philosophers who went back on what they said earlier in often radical ways. 

Keep reading Show less

Ashamed over my mental illness, I realized drawing might help me – and others – cope

Just before I turned 60, I discovered that sharing my story by drawing could be an effective way to both alleviate my symptoms and combat that stigma.

Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

I've lived much of my life with anxiety and depression, including the negative feelings – shame and self-doubt – that seduced me into believing the stigma around mental illness: that people knew I wasn't good enough; that they would avoid me because I was different or unstable; and that I had to find a way to make them like me.

Keep reading Show less

Sexual activity linked to higher cognitive function in older age

A joint study by two England universities explores the link between sex and cognitive function with some surprising differences in male and female outcomes in old age.

The results of this one-of-a-kind study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men.
Image by Lightspring on Shutterstock
Mind & Brain
  • A joint study by the universities of Coventry and Oxford in England has linked sexual activity with higher cognitive abilities in older age.
  • The results of this study suggest there are significant associations between sexual activity and number sequencing/word recall in men. In women, however, there was a significant association between sexual activity in word recall alone - number sequencing was not impacted.
  • The differences in testosterone (the male sex hormone) and oxytocin (a predominantly female hormone) may factor into why the male cognitive level changes much more during sexual activity in older age.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…