Solar Death Ray Melts Metal, Obliterates Rock

Archimedes is best known for popularizing the practice of running naked through the streets screaming, "Eureka!" Aside from this and his many contributions to the fields of mechanical engineering and mathematics, there's one mythical super-weapon that's also attributed to the polymath: the solar death ray.

According to legend, Archimedes tried to stave off the Roman invasion of Syracuse using an array of mirrors that allegedly set the Roman fleet aflame. It sounds like an awesome story, but one that has not been corroborated by either historical accounts or modern-day experiments.

Well, it turns out there's one experiment that proves the deadly power of sunlight. Jem Stansfield of British geek show Bang Goes the Theory dropped by the Solar Furnace Research Facility in Southern France, where they have created a fully functional mirror-based solar laser.

The sun-powered death ray generates over 6,300 degrees at its focal point. That's enough to scorch wood in mere seconds, and even melt rock or metal with ease. In fact, there's no known element on earth that can withstand its photonic beam.

Despite this incredible potential, its focal point is only a few feet away from the mirror, so it won't be useful as a coastal defense weapon. It's still a powerful tool for research into solar energy, though.

Plus, you have to admit that nothing beats the sheer joy of seeing steel melt with nothing more than a concentrated dose of sunshine.

[source: BBC UK via Gizmodo]