The $3.5 billion National Ignition Facility is finally open for business. Housed in a 10 story building as wide as three football fields, it will aim 192 laser beams at a 2mm ball of frozen hydrogen gas to achieve nuclear fusion—in 2040.

If they're successful, it'll be the most monumental discovery of the modern era, basically solving all of our energy problems. If it's successful. Which it damned well may not be.

Unfortunately, it's going to be a while before we find out if it works or not. It is open now, but it's got tests scheduled on it until 2040. Once they have it all set, they think that heating up that hydrogen to 100,000,000C will cause it to fuse to form helium, making it the first machine in history to create more energy than it uses. Exciting stuff, if it works. [National Ignition Facility via Inhabitat]