Harvard and MIT Researchers Invented ‘Lightsaber’ Technology … Sort of

The team manipulated light so that it would act like molecules.

A research team led by Harvard and MIT physics professors has manipulated photons of light to form molecules, a discovery that is very exciting to people with a high level understanding of physics … Of the discovery, Harvard Physics Professor Mikhail Lukin says, “It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers.”

Ok, now the rest of us are listening.

“When these photons interact with each other,” Lukin says, “they’re pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.”

Lukin must know that there’s no better way to interest us in your complex scientific discovery than to draw an metaphor to a sci-fi film from the 1970s. But sadly, their discovery, published in the journal Nature this week, does not actually make it possible for us to wield sword hilts with laser beams that bang against each other and slay jedis.

Here’s what they actually did:  In normal circumstances, light is massless. It doesn’t interact with other light. When you intersect two laser beams, they just pass through each other. But the researchers, led by Lukin and MIT Professor of Physics Vladan Vuletic, placed rubidium atoms in a vacuum chamber, then chilled them to nearly absolute zero (which, Walter White reminds you, is different from regular zero. It’s -273 celsius, to be exact.) Then they fired a group of photons into the atom cloud, finding that they exited bound together like a molecule. This is, apparently, a very big first.

“Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless, and that they do not interact with each other,” Lukin says in media reports. “What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules. This type of photonic bound state has been discussed theoretically for quite a while, but until now it hadn’t been observed.”

“We do this for fun, and because we’re pushing the frontiers of science,” Lukin said. But they have some real world applications, too, because for instance you need something with which to duel a Sith lord “photons remain the best possible means to carry quantum information. The handicap, though, has been that photons don’t interact with each other,” Lukin says. Huh? So can we expect to buy these lightsabers by Christmas or what?

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  • forstudentpower

    Fascinating! Though I heartily recommend the writer go over this post again: typos and punctuation errors abound.

  • Ettore Greco

    Finally Wavevolution is part of the scientific establishment.

    The progressive science of Wavevolution is the transformation from waves to atoms and its correlation to new understandings of the relation between Space and Time.

    Wavevolution extends the concept of evolution to all forms of energy through a process of gradual changes that transform waves into atoms. All elements have one electric charge, one counterpart and one mass. Mass-less does not exist. Symmetry is everywhere. Neutral elements are composites of two opposite charges and are not elementary particles

    Wavevolution is the energy transformation opposite to Nuclear fission.

    Wavevolution is also the link that was missing to reveal the Creation.

    The origin of the Universe is revealed even by the spark appearing from the friction of two cutting blades while they are being sharpened. Try to videotape the spark appearing from those two blades, then watch again the same film while is being rewound and in slow motion. You will see the light from the spark entering the blades and becoming part of them. In fact, the photons of light are the “building blocks” of the metal blades. This simple example should also be a clear indication to explain how the whole mass had been formed in the Universe. Since the Big Bang, waves continue to solidify into hydrogen atoms and transform their energy in different forms of mass. The Human beings, made up of atoms, are the ultimate product of a slow process started with transformed waves.

    In Wavevolution all forms of energy constantly transform. The same quantum of energy originally carried by any wave becomes gradually fragmented and dispersed by the encountered interferences. For example, quanta of gamma rays over time will lower their potential to become X rays and X rays will gradually become ultraviolet rays diminishing their original frequencies. The initial quantum of energy is transformed into different other forms of energy through spontaneous symmetry breaking. Once they have reached one critical level of energy, lost heat as they travel and having therefore reduced their frequencies, waves collapse, also forming two subatomic particles with opposite charges, as if they were the split ends of one broken hair.

    Wavevolution shows how the behavior in waves and atoms is identical and how this single movement common to all energy is comparable to One Divine Will that creates the whole Universe. This constant movement, Quantum mechanics, is here intended as the natural Law of Attraction between two opposite and complementary electric charges.

    The discovery of the existence of One Universal Law that had one beginning about 14 billion years ago and that was not caused by Humankind confirms as a consequence the existence of One Creator.

    http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wavevolution

    http://www.wavevolution.org/en/humanwaves.html

  • http://twitter.com/at_nguyen_huynh Anhtuan Nguyen Huynh

    When decorated in the public spaces, city sidewalks, parks, etc., the city landscape will improve significantly in time for holidays. For more quality news visit my Twitter @AT_Nguyen_Huynh