An atom, molecule or speck of dust placed at the focus of the world's most powerful x-ray laser doesn't stand a chance. The illuminated matter reaches a temperature in excess of one million kelvins, as hot as the solar corona, in less than a trillionth of a second. Atoms of, for example, neon subjected to such extreme radiation rapidly lose all 10 of their electrons, and once they have lost their protective cloak of electrons, they explode away from neighboring atoms. For physicists, the trail of destruction holds a peculiar fascination.