Fuel: Here's the Proof

To confirm that it takes a lot of energy to make an object move at near-light speed, all you have to do is look at the electric bill from a particle accelerator.

Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

Particle accelerators use an electric field to make electrons and other subatomic particles move at near-light speed. At the end of a linear accelerator, an electron can be moving at 0.999 999 999 95 times the speed of light.

An electron is tiny, but getting a bunch of electrons moving takes a lot of energy. When SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator in California, is powered up, it consumes about 50 megawatts. That’s enough power to supply 50 000 homes.







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