Reality, it seems, is catching up to fiction. This time, however, it appears, quite by accident. Not just any accident, it's worth mentioning. Accidents of the sort that only happen when smart people are paid to do nothing else but think and experiment.
This is what a team of scientists from two of the country's leading institutions of knowledge came up with the technology that could be used to build a lightsaber, of all things.
(Braces yourself, it's going to get a bit technical). The scientific understanding until now, was that photons, or the mass-less particles that constitute light, do not interact, but rather simply pass through each other, just two beams of luminescence during a laser-light show.
"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," said Harvard Professor of Physics, Mikhail Lukin.
The study published on the Harvard Gazette claims that researchers at the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms, have managed to coax photons into binding together to form molecules - a state of matter that, until now, had been only theoretically hypothesized.
"It's not an inapt analogy to compare this to lightsabers," said Lukin. "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."
Led by Lukin and MIT Professor of Physics Vladan Vuletic, the scientists established the technological foundation of that which in the future could be used to turn into reality an idea that had only existed in the fiction, Star Wars, kind of fiction to be more precise.
"When these photons interact with each other, they're pushing against and deflecting each other. The physics of what's happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies," concluded Lukin.
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