Home Made Lightsaber?
Photons of light binding together to form molecules? Unusual research by Harvard Professor of Physics Mikhail Lukin and MIT Professor of Physics Vladan Vuletic has led to the realization of a state of matter that was (until a few weeks ago) purely theoretical. Or should we say, "science-fictional"?
(Luke practices with the lightsaber and a seeker remote)
The discovery, Lukin said, runs contrary to decades of accepted wisdom about the nature of light. Photons have long been described as massless particles which don't interact with each other – shine two laser beams at each other, he said, and they simply pass through one another.
"Photonic molecules," however, behave less like traditional lasers and more like something you might find in science fiction – the lightsaber.
"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 said. "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.
Here's how George Lucas describes a lightsaber in his 1976 novel Star Wars:
It consisted primarily of a short, thick handgrip with a couple of small switches set into the grip. Above this small post was a circular metal disk barely larger in diameter than his spread palm. A number of unfamiliar, jewel like components were built into both handle and disk, including what looked like the smallest power cell Luke had ever seen...
Luke examined the controls on the handle, then tentatively touched a brightly colored button up near the mirrored pommel. Instantly the disk put forth a blue-white beam as thick around as his thumb. It was dense to the point of opacity and a little over a meter in length... Strangely, Luke felt no heat from it... He knew what a lightsaber could do, though he had never seen one before. It could drill a hole right through the rock wall of Kenobi's cave - or through a human being.
Update: Technovelgy reader icecycle has pointed out that sf legend John W. Campbell wrote about the idea of "solid light" long before George Lucas. The earliest reference I know is in Campbell's 1930 novel The Black Star Passes - see the article on lux. End update.
Via Physorg (paper in Nature); thanks to an anonymous reader for alerting me to this story (a few days ago - sorry, I'm a bit behind).
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/26/2013)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )
Related News Stories -
Self-Healing Material Pulls Carbon Out Of The Air
'... could seal the punctures.' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.
Shapeshifting Materials Transform By Light
'Its lines wavered, flowed, and then painfully reformed.'- Philip K. Dick, 1957.
Superstrong Multilayer Metal-Graphene Composite Material
Negligible increase in weight increased material strength by hundreds of times.
Amphibio 3D Printed Gill Shirt
'... we can descend and live down there at one of those year-round aquatic resorts.' - Philip K. Dick, 1966.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Purdue Pharma Ready To Profit From OxyContin Use Or Addiction Recovery
'It may be organic damage. It may be permanent. Time'll tell, and only after you are off Substance D for a long while.'
BloxVox Mutes Cellphone Convos
It's the polite thing to do, and has been the polite thing to do for about four generations.
Superfast Replicator: Volumetric Additive Manufacturing
I can't wait. Bring it on.
DNA May Contain Malware
'You were told to embed the logical pathogen.'
I Can't Resist Worm Robots
'Seen close it was not completely flexible...'
Rplate Digital License Plates Now Legal In Michigan
'Gragg's digital ink license plates ...'
Can Musk Starship Astronauts Use Magnetic Boots?
'Walking awkwardly in the magnetic boots that held him to the black mass of meteoric iron...'
Giant Dolphin Spotted On Jupiter!
'Now at last he could appreciate its real size and complexity...'
Musk's Starship An SF Fan's Dream Come True
Perfect for testing, perfect for fans!
TinyMobileRobots Are Sewer Sentinels
Every movie monster gets its start someplace.
Fishy Facial Recognition Now Possible
'Palenkis can identify random line patterns better than any other species in the universe.'
Spicy Tomatoes Created With Genetic Engineering
How about mashed potatoes and brown gravy?
Driverless Hotel Rooms Predicted In 1828
'Did you never see a moving house before?'
Yandex Self-Driving Taxi Is Very Smooth
'The big car was slowing down, its computer brain sensing an exit ahead.'
Shrimp Actually Made Of Algae Is A New Wave Food
Bring in that crop algae.
Cosplay Style Wings Could Work On Moon
'They're lovely! - titanalloy struts as light and strong as bird-bones...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories