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 -
New Paper - Write With Light Erase With Heat
Writing with light, erasing with heat.
Reconfigured Graphene 10X Strong, 5 Percent Dense, As Steel
'...It was made of Alohydrolium, which is the lightest of all metals.' - Hugo Gernsback, 1911.
MIT's aeroMorph Technology
'... It falls into that structure like a rubber figure returning to shape.' - Samuel R. Delany, 1966.
Russia's Protective Ferrite Fabric
'His suit-shield sucked in the energy and discharged it...'- Philip K. Dick, 1954.
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.
Matrix Sentinel Ancestor, The Pipe Inspector Robot From Krakow
Watch out, Keanu!
Auto-Focus Smart Glasses Have Liquid Lenses
'Hufhuf oil held in static tension by an enclosing force field within a viewing tube...'
Robotic Physician Assistant Has Steady 'Hands'
'You turned the screws below and the prongs moved... with caliper slowness, minuteness and precision.'
Roboy 3DPrinted Humanoid Robot
'A robot child that would be reared within the bosom of a human family...'
Robird Flapping Wing Drones Keep Airports Safe
'Mitch heard a rasping, flacketing buzz, like a big insect...'
3D Printed Fashion - Plastirobes And Transdresses
'... dial a new fashion every day!'
Robotic Lawn Mower Powered By Sun, Arduino
'The mower reached the edge of the lawn, clucked to itself like a contented hen...'
Google Perfects 'Blade Runner-style' Photo Details
'Pull back... stop... enhance 57-19...'
Pokerbot Libratus Learns To Lie (Bluff)
'Lying's a vital part of your psychological defense system - you're naked without it!'
Otto Autonomous Robot Trucks Run Into... Legal Snag
'They were automatic trucks such as are used for making deliveries...'
Tiny Drones With Sticky Feet Pollinate Flowers Now
'The Scarab rubbed its hind legs together...'
ThreeForm 3D Scans And Digitally Simulates Customer Fashion
'...A miracle of misapplied engineering caused his own face to appear on the illustrated figures dressed in trooper red.'
CloudFisher - Moroccan Fog Farmers Harvest Moisture From The Air
'That moisture trickles down...'
Piaggio Gita Personal Robot Porter
'Carry his bag... and follow him faithfully...'
Ardu McDuino, Bagpipe Robot
'Rollo sat at the keyboard, prim, inhuman, rigid, twin lenses focused...'
Not Quite Self-Replicating Robots, Franka Emika
'... it shares with mankind the ability to propagate.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories