Monday, December 9, 2013

A Working Lightsaber?


By Micaela Seekell

Cue the dramatic music and get ready to do some fancy foot work. Are we close to making a real working lightsaber?

Scientists from Harvard and MIT were able to make light turn into molecules, meaning that a working lightsaber was one step closer to being a reality. Harvard Professor Mikhail Lukin made the comparison to the ficticious weapon. "It's not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers."

This experiment took place using multiple tables of equipment. On the first sat a vacuum chamber. A meter-wide vessel that is hooked up to a series of pumps to remove air from the inside. The second table had the optical equipment. These were used to control the laser beams and to detect the results during the experiment. On the third and largest table, being around 4 meters long, was a mix of lasers which were needed for the different parts of the experiment.

Overall, these elements together weighed ruffly a ton. Not exactly something you can clip to your belt and bring with you to save the galaxy.

To read how the experiment worked you can follow the link below. The result of the experiment is two different antennae of electrons that affects each other. The second can not pass through until the first has left the spot. These photonic molecules only exist for a quick moment in an area that is a fraction of a millimeter long. This area is also colder than outer space and enclosed in a metal container.

"When these photons interact with each other, 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 stated.

Although we have made a step closer to the possibility of a real lightsaber we still have a far way to go. "I don't know what to say. The lightsaber is fictitious," says the Harvard postdoc and first author on the paper about the experiment, Ofer Firstenberg. "We don't know what the physics is behind a lightsaber. I don't know how George Lucas did it."

Until then I guess we'll just have to be content with dueling our friends and family with the lightsaber toys.



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