Mar 21, 2016 (old post that I had to paste as a new one)
Friday I arrived at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before the others, of course. The protocol guy was next and then the French MP with his entourage. Here is where my (heroic) deceased father, Charles E. Violet, had spent his entire career as the nuclear physicist who oversaw the first ever underground nuclear blast, putting an end to atmospheric tests by the US. Talks, that I interpreted into French, on the latest that the nations best scientists had discovered on shale gas and fracking, additive manufacturing, and underground batteries came one after the other. I felt that all my past, and maybe Dad's, came to my rescue. Names of chemicals, people, gadgets and elements whizzed through me. "Through" truly because to interpret, you must understand. Finally one stumped me: "sandstone." Silly, isn't it? (In the context, it was "grès".) Finally came the tour through the worlds largest and most powerful laser, the National Ignition Facility. It covers the size of three football fields and is several stories deep. 192 beams of light wind through it being boosted and redirected until they all flash for a few billionths of a second on a target the size of a "pepper corn" ("grain de poivre") and produce more power than all the electricity produced in the United States. The idea is one day to produce controlled fusion, something Dad used to work on. He was there, and I hope he was proud of me.