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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 2 )

Related News Stories - (" Material ")

3D Printed Damascus Steel Now Possible
'... lined with durite, that strange close-packed laboratory product.' - Robert Heinlein, 1939.

3D Printing Of Metallic Glass
Great Scott!

Draw Circuits With Conductive Ink
'It's rewiring things... squeezing silver toothpaste in a ribbon along the printed circuitry.'

How To Encode The 'Memory' Of Materials
'Just jar it, and it falls into that structure like a rubber figure returning to shape.' - Samuel R. Delany, 1966.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Tesla Will Have Metal Gear Snake Autocoupler, Musk Confirms
'Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first I did not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter.'

Starlink Satellites Leading Edge On-Orbit Debris Mitigation
Propulsion-assisted orbital decay, brought to you by SpaceX.

Healight Ultraviolet Endotracheal Device Has Covid-19 Treatment Potential
'He applied the tip of the instrument to the interior of the wound...'

Parents Use AI To See One Last Message From Their Deceased Son
'...what's to keep me from showing face, Man?'

Satoshi Tomizu Creates Pocket Universes And Worldcraft Bubbles In Glass
'The Worldcraft bubble glittered, catching the light...'

Space Hero Inc. Offers Trip To ISS As Reality Show Prize
'This is Elmer Schmitz, presenting to you the finalists in our Aviation Quiz Program...'

I Love Ceiling-Mounted Robots
'Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling...'

Armano Remote Control Excavator
'The bulldozer moved through the... mine... '

OK, NASA 3D Printer Of Food Not Yet Star Trek Food Synthesizer
Maybe not, but we're seeing definite progress.

Kelly Clarkson Show Like Black Mirror '15 Million Merits'
'These people are pieces of software called avatars.'

Salto Jumping Robot Now Sticks Landing!
'Lucky touched the leap knob and the hopper's leg retracted.'

Gyroscopic Median-Straddling Mass Transit Vehicles
'It was among these leviathans that the little gyrocar was daring to thrust its puny self...'

Bigrating Laser Beam-Riding Light Sail Is Self-Correcting
'That sail will be twenty thousand miles at the wide part.'

ISS Astronauts Test Estee Lauder 'Advanced Night Repair' Skin Serum
'Out in the New Moon, just ask for what you want...'

LG Wing Twisting Smartphone Might Be Fun
'A polycarbon screen unfurled...'

Mushroom Coffin Returns You To Nature, Naturally
'She touched the leaf. She was wanted.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.